Sen. Menendez Denial on Permuy is 'Howler of the Day'

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Permuy photoYesterday, NLPC Chairman Ken Boehm questioned Senator Robert Menendez' veracity after his office claimed that he did not know that his ex-aide Pedro Pablo Permuy (in photo) was involved with ICCSI, a company partly owned by his mega-donor Salomon Melgen. Menendez sought to pressure administration officials to support a contract for port security in the Dominican Republic that would have provided a windfall for Melgen.

In a Miami Herald story today, Marc Caputo reports:

Sen. Bob Menendez's ties to a former Miami aide who could benefit from a controversial overseas port contract, which the Democrat pushed for, extend to an international business group that last year feted Spain's king and the U.S. secretary of state.

Menendez and Pedro Pablo Permuy hold high-level posts on the United States-Spain Council, funded by major special interests -- from ATT to Bacardi to Wal-Mart-- as well as a little-known investment company of the senator's top South Florida donor, Dr. Salomon Melgen, who is under FBI investigation.

Boehm elaborated on his comments about Menendez claiming no knowledge of Permuy's ICCSI involvement. From the same article:

...ethics watchdogs have their doubts.

"That's the howler of the day. I don't see how the senator couldn't have known about it," said Ken Boehm, chairman of the ethics watchdog group called the National Legal and Policy Center.

"Permuy is not just a former staffer," Boehm said. "He did two stints with Menendez. Menendez advocated for this issue. And they're together on this council? How could Menendez not really know?"

Boehm points out that Melgen's cousin, Vinicio Castillo Seman, told reporters publicly, privately and in writing that Permuy was involved with the ICSSI deal. Castillo mentioned Permuy, a former assistant U.S. defense secretary, to rebut critics of ICSSI who noted that the eye-doctor Melgen had no security background.

"Why would Castillo go out of his way to say we're going to hire this guy to run the thing?" Boehm asked.

Ray Hernandez and Frances Robles first reported the port security deal in the New York Times on Friday. Permuy's involvement was first reported in the New York Times on Tuesday by Frances Robles.