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Menendez Watch

Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) remains under investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee and faces allegations of using his political clout to benefit donors and individuals close to him.

The radio station WNYC went to look for a former Menendez staffer, Pablo Permuy, in an effort to "better understand the sphere of influence" that surrounds the New Jersey Democrat.

WNYC reports:

WNYC has learned that Sen. Robert Menendez is the honorary chair of a trade organization that relies on a long list of his campaign donors as sponsors and has an address that is a K Street law office in Washington D.C.

WNYC's Bob Hennelly reports the president of the group, the United States Spain Council, is a former Menendez staffer who was a consultant on a controversial Dominican Republic port security deal worth a half a billion dollars to a major Menendez campaign donor.

It's Menendez's relationship with that donor, Dr. Salomon Melgen, that's at the heart of a Senate Ethics Committee probe that has dogged the senator for months.

Menendez’s relationship with Dr. Melgen has raised questions of impropriety and similar inquiries are beginning to form around his relationship with Permuy.

Permuy is the president of the United States Spain Council (USSC), which shares an address with SNR Denton, an international law firm with a lobbying arm. As WNYC noted, SNR Denton’s PAC has made political contributions to Menendez.

According to the radio broadcast, Permuy has worked with numerous individuals and organizations that have contributed to the senator, from the USSC to the lobbying firm Greenberg Traurig.

Jack Abramoff, a convicted felon and former Greenberg Traurig lobbyist, told WNYC that relationships like this are considered "bribery" anywhere except Washington, D.C.

As the Free Beacon reported, "Pablo Permuy served as Menendez’s national security adviser from 2001 to 2003 when then-Congressman Menendez was a member of the House Western Hemisphere Subcommittee." Menendez sponsored a $3.5 million earmark for a company that was represented by Permuy.

Dynamic Animation Systems, a defense company headquartered in Fairfax, Va., hired Greenberg Traurig LLP lobbyist Pedro Pablo Permuy in 2008 and 2009 to help it obtain "appropriations for simulation training," according to lobbying disclosures. …

"The fact that [Permuy is] working for a company that benefits from an earmark from the senator speaks for itself," said the National Legal and Policy Center’s Ken Boehm. "It has nothing to do with policy. It has everything to do with fundraising dollars."

"Everything about Permuy suggests that he’s made a career out of his closeness to Sen. Menendez, whether it’s lobbying whether it’s working on U.S.-Spain Council or whether its working w the Senator’s biggest donor, Dr. Melgen," Boehm said.