Menendez Donations Could Cause Problems for Dems in Tough Reelection Fights

Embattled New Jersey senator's PAC gave money to Tim Kaine and Bob Casey, among others

Sens. Tim Kaine and Bob Menendez (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
September 25, 2023

Sen. Robert Menendez's (D., N.J.) political action committee has contributed tens of thousands of dollars to the campaigns of Senate Democrats facing tough reelection fights next year, raising questions about whether they will hang on to the cash in the wake of a bombshell bribery indictment of the scandal-plagued New Jersey Democrat.

Menendez’s New Millennium PAC contributed $10,000 each to the campaigns of Democratic senators Bob Casey (Pa.), Jacky Rosen (Nev.), and Tim Kaine (Va.), according to campaign finance disclosures. The committee also contributed $5,000 to Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) and $2,500 to Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D.), a candidate for Delaware's open Senate seat.

The financial links to Menendez could cause a political headache for Democrats in those pivotal races, which could determine party control of the Senate next year. That pressure mounted Monday after Sen. John Fetterman (D., Pa.) called on Menendez to resign from office and pledged to return a $5,000 contribution he received last year from New Millennium PAC.

According to federal prosecutors, Menendez provided political favors for three New Jersey businessmen in exchange for cash, gold bars, a Mercedes-Benz, and payments toward a mortgage. Federal agents found hundreds of thousands of dollars in gold bars at Menendez's home and nearly $500,000 in cash stuffed in his clothing, closets, and a safe.

Menendez, who was indicted along with his wife, allegedly provided information to Egyptian intelligence officers in exchange for the bribes. And he allegedly intervened in a New Jersey attorney general's and a U.S. attorney's investigations into two of his codefendants. He denied the allegations at a press conference Monday in which he refused to resign from office. He said he will also continue his campaign for reelection next year.

None of Menendez's recent beneficiaries can claim ignorance about allegations about the embattled lawmaker. The investigation into Menendez was revealed in news reports last year, and he has faced credible bribery allegations before. Menendez was indicted in 2015 on charges that he accepted bribes from a Florida eye doctor in exchange for political favors. Prosecutors dropped the case in 2018 after a jury failed to reach a verdict at his trial.

New Millennium PAC contributed to Kaine's campaign on March 21, Rosen's campaign on March 29, Manchin's campaign on March 30, Casey's campaign on April 10, and Blunt Rochester's campaign on June 26. None of those lawmakers have urged Menendez to resign from office. Their campaigns did not respond to questions about whether they will return the PAC's donations.

Casey could face the most pressure to comment on the indictment, thanks to his state's proximity to New Jersey and Fetterman's calls for Menendez to resign.

"Senator Menendez should resign. He's entitled to the presumption of innocence, but he cannot continue to wield influence over national policy, especially given the serious and specific nature of the allegations," Fetterman said on Saturday.