Commentators on both the Left and the Right are suggesting that the impending indictment of Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) is retribution against Menendez for his recent criticisms of Obama administration foreign policy. While we concur that almost everything that Attorney General Eric Holder does is tainted by politics, a few points about the Menendez case are in order:
1) The reported charges against Menendez, that he tried to interfere with a Medicare fraud investigation of his largest donor, Dr. Salomon Melgen, and that he went to bat for Melgen in the Dominican Republic port security deal, were not cooked up by the political operation at the White House.
CNN is reporting that Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) will be indicted on charges related to favors he provided to his largest campaign contributor, Dr. Salomon Melgen, a Miami-area eye doctor.
The probe was reportedly initiated after media reports that Menendez intervened on Melgen's behalf with government officials regarding a Medicare billing dispute and a port security deal in the Dominican Republic. Based on information provided by NLPC, the New York Times first reported on February 1, 2013 that Menendez went to bat for the Dominican port security deal that would have resulted in a "highly lucrative windfall" for Melgen.
Lachlan Markay of the Washington Free Beacon website today details the saga of something called the Clean Energy Project. Founded and staffed by for former aides to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), the nonprofit collected donations from corporations which received hundreds of millions in federal grants and loan guarantees at Reid’s urging. From the article:
Their donations to the CEP suggest “a vehicle to promote pay-to-play politics,” says Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, an ethics watchdog group.
“It is run by Reid insiders, funded by those who want Reid’s political favors, and there’s a track record of Reid dispensing favors to those who fund it,” Boehm said in an email. “As the late Senator [Sam] Ervin said, sometimes things are what they look like.”
The New York Times reports in a front-page story today that Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) successfully pressed Cheryl Mills, Hillary Clinton's chief of staff at the State Department, to grant a visa to an Ecuadoran woman whose family made significant donations to his campaign and other Democratic campaign groups, including the Obama Victory Fund.
The woman, Estefania Isaias, is the daughter of Roberto Isaias, a wealthy Ecuadoran who is wanted along with his brother, William Isaias, for allegedly looting a bank in their home country. Estefania was barred from entering the United State because she previously had illegally brought her maids into this country.
Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) is claiming that Cuban intelligence operatives may have planted reports that he patronized underage prostitutes. According to a Washington Post story on Monday by Carol Leonnig and Manuel Roig-Franzia:
The alleged Cuba connection was laid out in an intelligence report provided last year to U.S. government officials and sent by secure cable to the FBI's counterintelligence division, according to the former official and a second person with close ties to Menendez who had been briefed on the matter.
An lo and behold, look who is topping the list. It is Dr. Salomon Melgen, Senator Robert Menendez' biggest donor, whose eye practice in Palm Beach, Florida has been twice raided by the FBI. Apparently, Melgen was the top recipient of Medicare reimbursements for the whole county. In 2012, he received more than $20 million. The news has put renewed scrutiny on Melgen and his relationship with Menendez, which is reportedly under investigation by federal law enforcement authorities.
In today's New York Times, Frances Robles provides new details of the extensive political giving of two wealthy Ecuadoran brothers, Roberto and William Isaias, who are wanted in their home country for allegedly looting a bank. From the Times:
"There is a certain mercenary aura on the Hill when it comes to overlap of fund-raising from wealthy individuals with problems," said Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, a research group. "The key elements are all there: They are wealthy and have problems that are solved by the discretionary judgment of someone in the administration. They have tons of money and are willing to write checks all over the place."
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.
New York TV station NBC 4 reported today that the federal criminal probe of New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez is expanding:
The Department of Justice is investigating Menendez's efforts on behalf of two fugitive bankers from Ecuador, multiple current and former U.S, officials tell NBC 4 New York. The probe into Menendez's dealing with the bankers comes as federal authorities are also investigating his relationship to a big campaign donor from Florida.
The donor is Salomon Melgen, Menendez' largest contributor. 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. The report notes:
As the Palm Beach Postreports, the offices of Dr. Salomon Melgen were yesterday again raided by the FBI, evidencing an ongoing investigation into what appears to be Medicare fraud. Melgen is the largest campaign donor of Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ). In 2012, he 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.
The Postnotes that Menendez went to bat for Melgen on a port security deal in the Dominican Republic. These actions on Melgen's behalf were first reported by the New York Times on February 1, 2013, based on information provided by NLPC. The Washington Postreported in March that Menendez' advocacy on behalf of Melgen is the subject of a grand jury investigation in Miami.