Menendez Watch

Controversial donor Melgen speaks to press about accusations of corruption

April 2, 2013

Controversial Democratic donor Dr. Salomon Melgen is talking about his relationship with New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez. The Florida ophthalmologist said in his first major interview since allegations of impropriety surfaced that, while he is "like brothers" with Menendez, his companies have not benefited from the relationship.

Bloomberg reports:

Salomon Melgen, the Florida political donor at the center of a criminal probe, said he and Sen. Robert Menendez are "like brothers" who spoke weekly, yet his companies never benefited and he broke no laws.

"I don’t have any business interests at all that have been helped by any politicians," Melgen, an ophthalmologist, said at his office in Port St. Lucie on Florida’s east coast. [...]

A grand jury is examining whether Menendez improperly helped Melgen in his business dealings, according to the Washington Post. The senator intervened in a Medicare-billing dispute and urged the U.S. government to press the Dominican Republic to enforce a contract with a Melgen company to provide port-security services, the newspaper said. 

The Menendez-Melgen relationship has been widely reported on in recent months and Menendez has been tied to numerous instances in which he appeared to act on behalf of his longtime donor.

Menendez intervened in a port security deal involving one of Melgen’s companies and also intervened with federal health officials as Melgen faced an audit regarding his Medicare billing practices. The senator is facing a grand jury investigation of the claims.

Melgen acknowledged speaking with Menendez about "his problems with Medicare regulations and the port contract." However, the doctor insists he has not been involved in a quid pro quo, telling Bloomberg he wants to "restore his reputation," which has been "tarnished" by recent headlines. 

"They took away my dignity," Melgen, who came to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic in 1979 and still owns a home there, said in the March 21 interview. "They portrayed me as a greedy guy who was with politicians for the quid pro quo."

The Star Ledger previously reported that four local New Jersey Democratic parties received "big checks totaling $103,500," which aided get-out-the-vote efforts throughout the state. All of the checks came from Melgen.

Charlotte DeFilippo, the Union County Democratic chairwoman, said Melgen’s money helped Democrats up and down the ticket, but that it was especially meant for Menendez. "I said to him, ‘We need additional funds,’ " she said, recalling her conversation with the senator. "He said he’d see what he could do, and I received a check."

Both the senator and Melgen have repeatedly denied accusations of wrongdoing.