Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) disclosed on Friday that he accepted a third flight on a jet owned by Dr. Salomon Melgen, his largest donor, who is apparently under investigation for Medicare fraud. Last year, when Menendez was forced to admit to that he accepted two flights from Melgen, his office asserted that there were no more flights. Menendez’ failure to reimburse Melgen was characterized as an “oversight,” the same term his office used in reference to the first two flights.
Menendez also disclosed that he has paid more than $400,000 in legal fees associated with investigation of his relationship with Melgen. In 2012, Melgen contributed $700,000 to a super PAC affiliated with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) that spent the bulk of the funds for Menendez’ re-election.
Based on information provided by NLPC, the New York Times reported on February 1, 2013 that Menendez went to bat for a port security deal in the Dominican Republic that would have resulted in a “highly lucrative windfall” for Melgen.
We do not believe that Menendez has fully disclosed the nature of his relationship with Melgen, nor are we convinced either of the two investigations – by the Justice Department or the Senate Ethics Committee – are serious.
It is a near certainty that the Senate Ethics Committee will take no action against Menendez. The Committee should be renamed the Cover-Up Committee. Over the years, its mission has been to protect incumbent Senators from ethics allegations. NLPC was founded in 1991 to conduct independent investigations of corrupt officeholders following the release of the Senate Ethics Committee report whitewashing the Keating Five. Little has changed since 1991.
The Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder has an unwritten policy of nonprosecution of incumbent members of Congress. Although Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) was Censured by the House and resigned his Chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee (based on information exposed by NLPC), the Justice Department failed to criminally prosecute Rangel, even though he admitted not paying his taxes and failed to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in income and assets on his disclosure forms.
Likewise, the Justice Department failed to prosecute former Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV) after an extensive FBI investigation spanning several years. As exposed by NLPC through front-page articles in the Wall Street Journal, Mollohan’s business partners benefitted personally from hundreds of millions of tax dollars Mollohan earmarked to nonprofit groups in his district. He also sought to conceal the arrangement by failing to disclose income and assets on his financial disclosure forms. The Justice Department abruptly dropped the investigation without explanation just before Mollohan voted in favor of Obamacare (Mollohan was defeated for re-election in a 2010 Democratic primary.)
More recently, Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) has not been charged with any crime even though several of his close associates have been arrested and are awaiting trial, based on information first exposed by NLPC through the New York Times and the New York Post. Like Meeks, Holder is from Queens.
We do not know the significance of January 23 media reports that the Justice investigation of Menendez is expanding to include his relationship with two fugitive bankers from Ecuador. The information obviously came from someone with knowledge of the case, perhaps leaked by someone inside the investigation. It is possible that its purpose is to make the Justice Department appear even-handed as it investigates Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
New Jersey now has two corrupt U.S. Senators. Former Newark Mayor Cory Booker was elected in a special election on October 16, 2013, notwithstanding his links to a pay-for-play scheme exposed by NLPC and reported in the New York Post three days before. As for Christie, whether or not he knew what his underlings were up to, the closing lanes on a busy commuter bridge is about as low as it gets. But with the likes of Menendez fighting on, seemingly immune from the long arm of the law, Christie may too think he can hang on.
Holder is turning the country into one big New Jersey. The ethical climate is sufficiently loose that something called the National White Collar Crime Center felt safe enough from ridicule to hire the aforementioned Mollohan as a lobbyist. The Center was the one the groups to which Mollohan earmarked funds when he was in Congress. We can’t make this stuff up.