Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) disclosed late Wednesday he wrote a $58,500 check this month for trips he took on the private jet of a donor currently under federal investigation for fraud and political corruption.
Menendez is facing increased scrutiny over his relationship with Dr. Salomon Melgen, a South Florida eye doctor and major Democratic donor.
Melgen's office was raided late Tuesday by federal agents on two separate investigations: one into potential Medicare fraud, and one into corruption allegations about the relationship between Menendez and Melgen, according to the Miami Herald. The latter investigation began last year and was launched after a liberal watchdog group, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), forwarded a tip to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice about the undisclosed trips and the senator's alleged interactions with underaged prostitutes.
With the $58,500 check, Menendez quietly reimbursed Melgen for two flights he took on the doctor's plane in 2010, NBC News reported late Wednesday.
The New Jersey Democrat's relationship with Melgen first came under scrutiny after the Daily Caller published a series of stories on those trips.
“We can assume the Senate Ethics Committee is looking at the allegation,” Menendez chief of staff Dan O'Brien told NBC Wednesday when asked if the ethics committee had contacted the senator's office.
When asked about the letter in November, a Menendez spokesman told the Free Beacon, “I don’t know anything about it.”
Melgen and his family have given $200,000 to Democrats, including $33,000 to Menendez. Melgen himself donated $5,000 to Menendez and $10,000 to the New Jersey Democratic State Committee in the 2012 cycle. His eye clinic also contributed at least $700,000 to Majority PAC, the Harry Reid-affiliated Super PAC dedicated to electing Democrats to the U.S. Senate.
Melgen is also facing difficulties with the Internal Revenue Service. Melgen has an outstanding IRS lien of $11.1 million for taxes owed from 2006 to 2009, according the Miami Herald.
Menendez is also facing questions over an intern in his Washington D.C., office who was revealed to be an illegal immigrant and registered sex offender. According to U.S. officials, the Department of Homeland Security instructed federal agents to delay the intern’s arrest until after the election.