Senator Robert Menendez Indicted on Corruption Charges

Reply Sun 5 Apr, 2015 04:51 am
A fascinating insight into a corrupt politician.

WASHINGTON — Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey was indicted on bribery charges on Wednesday in what prosecutors said was a scheme to trade political favors for luxury vacations, golf outings, campaign donations and expensive flights.

The indictment, the first federal bribery charges against a sitting senator in a generation, puts Mr. Menendez’s political future in jeopardy. He faces a possible sentence of 15 years in prison for each of the eight bribery counts.

Mr. Menendez, a Democrat, angrily denied wrongdoing and vowed to fight the charges. “This is not how my career is going to end,” he said at a news conference in Newark, where supporters cheered him. “Today contradicts my public service career and my entire life.”

Lawyers for Senator Robert Menendez have urged officials to forgo corruption charges.In Menendez Inquiry, Government Renews Push for Friend’s CooperationMARCH 26, 2015

The federal investigation into Mr. Menendez, 61, was well known, and charges had been expected. But the accusations in the 68-page indictment are much broader and more severe than had been publicly known. The senator was also charged with conspiracy and making false statements.

Document: The Indictment of Senator Robert Menendez
The charges revolve around Mr. Menendez’s relationship with Dr. Salomon E. Melgen, a wealthy Florida eye surgeon, and political benefactor. Dr. Melgen resisted entreaties by the Justice Department to testify against Mr. Menendez and was ultimately charged alongside him.

Prosecutors described Mr. Menendez’s offices on Capitol Hill as a hub of corrupt dealings, a place where the senator used his chief of staff to solicit gifts from Dr. Melgen, find out what he wanted in return and make sure it got done.

The indictment also reveals how the rise of super PACs, unleashed by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and subsequent legal changes, has opened a new channel for the wealthy to trade campaign cash for official favors.

Through his company, Vitreo-Retinal Consultants, Dr. Melgen directed $700,000 in corporate contributions to Majority PAC, a super PAC intended to help Democrats retain control of the Senate. Dr. Melgen instructed the group to use those contributions to aid Mr. Menendez’s 2012 re-election campaign.

Among the favors for Dr. Melgen, the department said, Mr. Menendez encouraged the Obama administration to change the Medicare reimbursement policy in a way that would make millions for the doctor. Prosecutors said he also tried to push a port security deal that Dr. Melgen was involved in and helped the surgeon’s foreign girlfriends obtain travel visas to the United States.

A bribery charge is among the most serious accusations of corruption the federal government can make. Prosecutors often opt to file a lesser charge of accepting a gratuity, which is easier to prove. A bribe amounts to the purchase of an official act, while a gratuity is seen as a way to curry favor with powerful officials.

To prove their case, prosecutors must show that Mr. Menendez’s actions and Dr. Melgen’s gifts were explicitly traded. The two men argue that they were longtime friends and that they exchanged gifts as part of that friendship.

“Prosecutors at the Justice Department don’t know the difference between friendship and corruption,” Mr. Menendez said on Wednesday.

The senator’s involvement in Dr. Melgen’s dispute with Medicare is the most damning element of the department’s indictment. Prosecutors cite emails showing that Mr. Menendez’s office was deeply involved in the dispute.

In 2009, Mr. Menendez sent an email instructing a staff member to call Dr. Melgen immediately regarding “a Medicare problem we need to help him with.”

Mr. Menendez argues that he intervened as a policy matter, not to help his friend. But emails show that his staff members conferred with Dr. Melgen regularly. “As you know we’ve been working on the Melgen case every day,” one staff member wrote.

At the Department of Health and Human Services, officials regarded the matter as a senator’s pulling strings for a friend. “We have a bit of a situation with Senator Menendez, who is advocating on behalf of a physician friend,” one health official wrote.

Lawyers for Dr. Melgen did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Dr. Melgen, 61, who is married, had college-age girlfriends who worked as models in Brazil, Ukraine, and the Dominican Republic, prosecutors say. Several times, Mr. Menendez helped him resolve visa problems so his girlfriends could come to the United States, prosecutors added. After learning that a visa had been approved, a staff member wrote, “In my view, this is ONLY DUE to the fact that R.M. intervened.”

Mr. Menendez accepted free trips on Dr. Melgen’s private jet and stayed at his resort home in the Dominican Republic. In 2010, prosecutors say, Mr. Menendez spent three nights in an executive suite at a five-star hotel in Paris, a stay valued at nearly $5,000. When Mr. Menendez realized how much the room would cost, prosecutors said, he sent an email to Dr. Melgen and asked him to book the room using rewards points.

After describing the room, with its limestone bath and enclosed rain shower, Mr. Menendez wrote: “You call American Express Rewards, and they will book it for you. It would need to be in my name.” Dr. Melgen booked the room, prosecutors said.

Mr. Menendez’s life story is a parable of political tenacity. The son of Cuban immigrants — a carpenter and a seamstress — he began his political career as a school board member in Union City, N.J. He became mayor, a state assemblyman, and state senator before being elected to the House in 1992. There, he established a reputation as one of his party’s best fund-raisers.

In late 2005, he was appointed to finish the term of Senator Jon S. Corzine, who left Congress to serve as governor of New Jersey. Almost immediately, Mr. Menendez was dogged by questions of financial impropriety.

Chris Christie, then the United States attorney in Newark, opened an investigation into a nonprofit group that paid Mr. Menendez more than $300,000 in rent at the same time that he helped it win federal grants. The case ultimately went nowhere, and Mr. Menendez won the election that year. Friends have dismissed it as a politically motivated investigation.

His political fate is now unclear, but he has given no indication that he plans to step down.

Mr. Menendez said on Wednesday that he would temporarily step down as the ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee.

Reply Sun 5 Apr, 2015 06:22 am
It's a good job it's only Democrats that are corrupt, otherwise the country sure would be in a mess!
Reply Sun 5 Apr, 2015 10:29 am
It's a good job it's only Democrats that are corrupt, otherwise the country sure would be in a mess!

A significant number of America's Congressional politicians are, for the most part, unscrupulous. In my opinion, the Repukes have the edge because their policies are mostly self-serving and for the rich and super-rich. And yet, I was quite surprised to see New York's Charlie Rangel (84-years-old) forced to give up his powerful chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee because he was using 4 rent-controlled apartments for his personal use (office space) and apartments.

I was surprised to see Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) giving cover to Governor Chris Christi (R) of New Jersey since both governors share responsibility for the Port Authority. Gov. Cuomo quickly dismantled an investigation that was going full steam ahead with indictments of some of his closest allies.

If one has enough money one can by a US Senator and Rep of the House. These corrupt politicians will undermine their own country's president if the price is right. The suddenly vociferous Tom Cotton from Arkansas was given one million dollars to scuttle the Iranian talks with the US and our five allies. The money came from Karl Rove on behalf of Israel's PM, Bibi Netanyahu and AIPAC.
Reply Mon 6 Apr, 2015 05:35 pm
If foreign governments buy politicians thats ok. Its only wrong if a U S citizen buys one unless of course he is a U S billionare then its ok.
Reply Mon 6 Apr, 2015 07:08 pm
If foreign governments buy politicians thats ok. Its only wrong if a U S citizen buys one unless of course he is a U S billionare then its ok.

It looks like they have purchased Hillary, and what billionaire are you speaking of?
Reply Mon 13 Apr, 2015 03:12 pm
Oh I dont know who owns who, they hide behind secret organizations that they have organized with their billions and let them spend the money they have donated to the organizations to be spent as they dictate and of course that branch of government that is supposed to protect all citizens the Supreme Court has declared it all legal by calling corporations people therefore they have the right of free speech which means that dollars equal free speech. The joker here is that even though what they are doing is legal according to the Supreme Court most billionaires wont admit to how much money they give to the candidates. Could it be that if the people realized how much they give to the Republican and Democratic candidates who do as their told by big business and the billionaires some of the people might wake up and vote for their own good and throw the money changers out of the temple? Temple=congress for those who dont realize to what I refer.
0 Replies
Reply Mon 13 Apr, 2015 06:44 pm

If foreign governments buy politicians thats ok. Its only wrong if a U S citizen buys one unless of course he is a U S billionare then its ok.

Hi, Rabel222. I agree. You are correct as usual.
0 Replies

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