Menendez Ties to Controversial Donor Melgen Deepen

Confirms he spoke to officials about audit on behalf of Melgen

Robert Menendez / AP
• February 7, 2013 11:59 am


Sen. Robert Menendez’s (D., N.J.) office has confirmed that the senator previously contacted federal officials in regards to a government audit of controversial donor Dr. Salomon Melgen. Melgen overbilled the government $8.9 million, according to officials. The Washington Post reports:

Sen. Robert Menendez raised concerns with top federal health-care officials twice in recent years about their finding that a Florida eye doctor — a close friend and major campaign donor — had overbilled the government by $8.9 million for care at his clinic, Menendez aides said Wednesday.

Menendez (D., N.J.) initially contacted federal officials in 2009 about the government’s audit of Salomon Melgen, complaining to the director overseeing Medicare payments that it was unfair to penalize the doctor because the billing rules were ambiguous, the aides said.

Menendez contacted Jonathan Blum, the Medicare director at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), in 2009 to "express concern" about Melgen’s case. Aides say the case was "brought up … in the context of broader concerns about the guidelines" of Medicare reimbursement.

The senator questioned the audit as recently as 2012.

Then, in June 2012, Menendez raised Melgen’s case again at a meeting with CMS acting administrator Marilyn Tavenner, aides recounted. They said the primary subject of the meeting was the implementation of President Obama’s health-care overhaul.

The aides said Menendez never urged the CMS to take specific action on Melgen’s case.

According to the Washington Post, Menendez denies knowing Melgen was "under formal investigation for possible fraud" until the FBI raid of Melgen’s West Palm Beach office.

This report comes as Menendez’s relationship to Salomon Melgen faces increasing scrutiny.

Menendez is facing a Senate ethics inquiry about two free trips he took in 2010 on Melgen’s private plane to the doctor’s seaside mansion in the Dominican Republic. Menendez acknowledged this month that he had not properly disclosed the trips.

Additionally, the senator faces allegations he used his political position to help a company, partially owned by Melgen, gain a "multimillion dollar contract" to provide port security in the Dominican Republic.