Sen. Menendez Pushed 'Windfall' for Melgen in Dominican Port Security Deal

Printer-friendlyPrinter-friendlyEmail to friendEmail to friend

Menendez photoEver since the spotlight was placed on Dominican-born eye doctor Salomon Melgen and his large campaign contributions to Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the question for us has been "What has Menendez done for Melgen?"

We believe that we have answer. After an extensive review of publicly available documents that link the two men, the answer relates to unusual actions on behalf of a port security company known as ICSSI.

Ray Hernandez and Frances Robles detail in a New York Times story how Menendez sought to help ICSSI "in ways that could bring the doctor a highly lucrative windfall." From the article:

Two years ago, Dr. Melgen, despite an apparent lack of experience in border security issues, bought an ownership interest in a company that had a long-dormant contract with the Dominican Republic to provide port security. Mr. Menendez, who is chairman of the Senate subcommittee that holds sway over the Dominican Republic, subsequently urged officials in the State and Commerce Departments to intervene so the contract would be enforced, at an estimated value of $500 million.

Menendez even convened a special hearing on the matter. Although he was the only Senator present, it had the full force of a Senate hearing. He dragged administration officials up to the Hill for questioning about why the deal had not gone through. The New York Times quotes Menendez:

"You have another company that has American investors that is seeking to - has a contract actually given to it by the - kind of ratified by the Dominican Congress to do X-ray of all of the cargo that goes through the ports, which have been problematic and for which in the past narcotics have been included in those cargo," the senator said at the hearing, according to a transcript provided by the National Legal and Policy Center, a government watchdog group.

Also from the article:

...Ken Boehm, the chairman of the government watchdog group, called the actions troubling.

"At a minimum, the public is entitled to know more about this relationship," Mr. Boehm said. "It's a matter of transparency and accountability."

The New York Times article was posted online this evening and will likely be published in tomorrow's print edition. As interesting as some of the details of the previous allegations have been, the real scandal is the appearance that a U.S. Senator tried to help a donor make a lot of money at the same time the donor was pouring hundreds of thousand into the campaigns of Menendez and his allies. The New York Times provides a good overview of the situation but there are several aspects of the Menendez-Melgen relationship that deserve much more scrutiny.