The Menendez Scandal: New Jersey Voters React

Embattled senator criticized by New Jersey pols, residents


New Jersey residents and local officials are uneasy about Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.), the scrutiny he is under for possible ethical and moral improprieties, and his affiliation with a controversial ophthalmologist and wealthy donor.

Many of the New Jersey officials and constituents interviewed by the Free Beacon said Menendez is not being truthful about the flights he took on a private jet of controversial donor Dr. Salomon Melgen. Others said he abused his power as a senator in trying to enforce a Dominican Republic port security contract that benefitted the same donor.

Menendez should resign if the accusations are true, some constituents also said.

“I wish he would advocate for the state of New Jersey and the residents of Monmouth County, who are suffering badly from Sandy, as he has for this doctor and these special interests,” said Anthony Fiore, Middletown Township committeeman and former mayor of the town.

A Senate Ethics Committee probe into flights Menendez took on Melgen’s private jet that the senator never noted on his financial disclosure forms and for which he only recently reimbursed the doctor is also stirring anger.

“It‘s highly questionable how Sen. Menendez waited two years to reimburse for the flights,” Fiore said. He pointed out that 50 to 80 percent of Menendez’s salary as senator was spent on the flights. “It’s an awful lot of money to spend on two flights. It doesn’t add up. To me, it would appear, and I have to wonder, did he ever have any intention of paying for the flights?”

New Jersey state Sen. Sam Thompson (R.), whose letter to the Senate Ethics Committee in November requested a probe into four flights Menendez took on Melgen’s plane that he did not disclose, agreed.

“My complaint was valid and asked the Senate Ethics Committee to take whatever action necessary,” Thompson said, noting that to accept any gift of more than $250 requires Senate permission. “He did not get permission.”

Menendez may have never intended to pay for the flights he took on Melgen’s private jet to the Dominican Republic, Thompson said.

“Well, since he said he didn’t remember, it was obvious he never planned on paying for those flights. It took him two years,” he said. “He forgot about them until the probe was requested, and that doesn’t sound like he intended to pay for them.”

Thompson also said, “his paying for the flights was a consequence of the complaint. Only after my compliant did he pay for the flights.”

Menendez told CNN the flights “fell through the cracks.”

Thompson also cited a recent report indicating Melgen donated to the Democratic committees of Camden, Union, Passaic, and Essex counties in New Jersey in the run-up to the November 2012 election in which Menendez was reelected easily.

“Why?” he asked.

“The senator should resign immediately or at least resign his chairmanship,” said James Foytlin, a resident of Ridgewood, N.J., and a blogger for the Ridgewood Blog. “Frankly, I think where there is smoke, there is fire. These are very serious allegations, and it is hard to believe that with the FBI involved the senator has not been guilty of some ethical lapses.”

Not every New Jerseyan is as outraged as Foytlin, however.

“It is very mixed,” he said of constituent reaction to Menendez. “For some reason, New Jersey voters are very tolerant of ethically challenged politicians.”

He mentioned the illegal immigrant intern of Menendez whose deportation was reportedly delayed until after the November election.

“If Menendez were a Republican they would have lit him on fire, lynched him, and had effigies of him on every corner,” said Foytlin.

Monmouth Beach resident Rebecca Rothstein was critical of Menendez and other politicians who do not follow the rules they themselves set.

“I feel we as citizens need to expect our politicians to follow the rules we ourselves abide by. Too often I hear, that it is “just the way it is” in politics. Time we all say enough!” she told the Free Beacon by email.

“Regardless of what Menendez did with his time in the Dominican, he didn’t pay for the travel until he was called out on it,” Rothstein said. “If you are willing to do that, knowing it is against the rules, what else are you doing?”

Rothstein said it is time “to expect better of those elected to represent us and not be so accepting of their digressions. As long as we continue to allow it, they will continue to do it. We need to not just ask for better but demand it.”

Two other residents of New Jersey who asked to remain nameless also said Menendez should resign.

One New Jersey resident said, “I thought Menendez should resign, not Pope Benedict.”

Another said Menendez should resign and, if he is found guilty of violating the law, should serve time in prison.

Other officials and constituents contacted said they were too busy dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, rebuilding their lives, and have not been following the ongoing Menendez story and could not offer comment.

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