Photo: Getty Images/Drew Angerer
New details leaking out about the ethics case surrounding Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) do not paint a pretty picture for the Senator.The New York Times has new details today about evidence that Menendez aided friend and donor, Dr. Salomon E. Melgen, in getting a $500 million port contract. According to the Times, Menendez also used his clout to halt a U.S. plan to send port security equipment to the Dominican Republic, something that would have hurt his friend’s business.
From the Times:
[I]n recently obtained e-mails, the degree to which Mr. Menendez sought to intervene on behalf of Dr. Melgen’s interests became clearer.
In a January e-mail exchange with Customs and Border Protection in the Department of Homeland Security, Mr. Menendez’s staff did not mention Dr. Melgen or his company, Boarder Support Services, by name.
But the aide asked if the United States government was planning to donate additional port security equipment to the Dominican Republic. The aide explained that if such a donation occurred, the Dominican government, perhaps under pressure from criminal elements there, might intentionally limit the use of the equipment so that drugs or other contraband could still flow through the country’s ports on the way to the United States.
Only by hiring the unnamed private contractor, the e-mail said, could the United States be assured that port security in the Dominican Republic would be enhanced.
“We’re thinking that Sen. Menendez forgot to mention this when he gave the Senate Democrat leadership assurances that there was nothing to the charges against him,” the Republican National Committee said in an email blast along with the story this morning.
The new details from the Times came after a Sunday story in Menendez’s home-state paper, The Star-Ledger, which provides several examples of cases in which Menendez intervening to Melgen’s benefit preceded hefty donations to the Senator or aligned campaign committees.
According to the Ledger, Melgen and his family have donated about $50,000 to Menendez over the past 10 years. That’s peanuts compared to the $700,000 they have provided to the Majority PAC, the Super PAC set up to help elect Democrats like Menendez.
And there are the free flights that Melgen provided Menendez to the Dominican Republic, for which Menendez reimbursed Melgen after they became public. According to National Journal, the $58,500 repayment represented as much as 87 per cent of Menendez’s net worth.
The Washington Post also reported last week that Menendez intervened on Melgen’s behalf when the latter was accused of overbilling the government by $8.9 million for care at his clinic.
In an editorial on Saturday, the Times called on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to relinquish Menendez’s gavel as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, saying he “was never a distinguished choice for chairman.”
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