Senator Robert Menendez Facing Corruption Charges
New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez is reportedly facing corruption charges due to using the power of his office to do special favors for a large donor. The donor, Salomon Melgen, is an ophthalmologist who had some of the highest Medicare billings in the country.
The Department of Justice is reportedly concerned with Menendez’s efforts to change Medicare billing policies for Melgen’s benefit. Melgen not only donated considerable funds to Senator Menendez and the Democratic Party, he also treated Menendez to lavish trips to the Dominican Republic on his private plane.
Senator Menendez eventually paid Melgen back for the trips, but only after the trips became a news story and he faced considerable public pressure.
According to court papers that were mistakenly and briefly unsealed last week, prosecutors have been examining whether Mr. Menendez improperly tried to persuade Medicare officials in recent years to change reimbursement policies in a way that would make millions of dollars for Dr. Melgen, one of the country’s biggest recipients of Medicare funds. Mr. Menendez has acknowledged urging the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to change its reimbursement policy, but said he did so because he considered the policy unfair.
On Friday night, at a Hilton hotel ballroom in Newark, Mr. Menendez denied he had done anything wrong, and vowed to persevere. “Let me be very, very clear,” he told about a dozen reporters. “I have always conducted myself appropriately and in accordance with the law.”
Whether he acted lawfully will apparently be settled in court, but as far as appropriately goes – no. Taking special gifts and favors from a donor and friend you are doing favors for in your capacity as a public official is highly unethical.
The background of the Senator Menendez corruption story is bizarre to say the least. The investigation of Menendez’s behavior started after a story in the Daily Caller claimed Menendez had been flying to the Dominican Republic to have sex with prostitutes. Whether or not that occurred remains contested but the attention brought to the flights led to the investigation and now charges.
The news of Senator Menendez facing charges has not been universally met with glee on the right as the neoconservative wing has forwarded a moronic conspiracy theory related to Menendez being indicted due to his opposition to a potential Iran nuclear weapons deal. That the investigation had been going on for years and has a clear basis is irrelevant to them apparently.
If Menendez resigns or is forced from office New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will have the power to appoint a replacement.