Fresh from his trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez attended a Black History Month celebration in Trenton yesterday. During his remarks at the Shiloh Baptist Church, the senator invoked the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and the Gospel of Luke to fend off the allegations of financial impropriety, prostitution and abuse of power, according to a report in The Star Ledger.
“Dr. King said that ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,’” Mendez said, prompting calls of “alright” from some in the audience at the Shiloh Baptist Church in Trenton. “In the end, I believe that justice will overcome the forces of darkness. Scriptures — scriptures tell us that he who ‘puts his hand to the plough and looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.’
“I have my hand on the plough,” he said, “and I am going to continue to look forward and to work to make that plough lead us to the fulfillment of educational, economic and health care opportunity in this country.”
In a scathing editorial that did not mention the prostitution and pedophilia allegations against U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, The New York Times has called for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to remove New Jersey’s junior senator from his newly acquired post as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator Robert Menendez was never a distinguished choice for chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the position he ascended to this month by virtue of seniority. Concerns about that quality gap have sharply escalated amid new disclosures about Mr. Menendez’s use of his position to advance the financial interests of a friend and big donor. Instead of trying to protect Mr. Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, needs to remove his gavel, at least pending credible resolution by the Senate Ethics Committee of the swirling accusations of misconduct.
The editorial goes on the summarize how Menendez abused his power as a Senator on the behalf Dr. Salomon Melgen, his friend and benefactor. Menendez held a Senate Sub-Committee hearing, where he was the only senator present, to pressure the State Department to prevail on the Dominican Republic to enforce a contract for port security with a company that Melgen has an ownership interest in. In 2009 and 2012, Menendez contacted federal health care officials to question their rulings that Melgan had over-billed the government $8.9 million in Medicare and Medicaid payments to his Florida eye care clinic.
The editorial concludes,
It appears Mr. Menendez has learned little from his own previous ethics issues or from the fall of a former New Jersey senator, Robert Torricelli, who decided not to run for re-election in 2002 amid allegations that he had inappropriately aided a big donor and accepted expensive gifts. It is unclear whether the Senate Ethics Committee has initiated a formal inquiry into Mr. Menendez’s conduct, but a prompt and thorough review is surely called for. In the meantime, Mr. Menendez needs to relinquish his leadership role, at least temporarily.
Congressman Albio Sires (D-NJ-8) told The Star Ledger that Cuban government could be out to smear Senator Bob Menendez’s good name.
“I won’t even be surprised if somehow the Cuban government is involved in this to try to damage Bob Menendez because he’s been so steadfast against the Castro government. He’s been a critic all his political life,” Sires said in a phone interview. “I would not be surprised if they are behind some of this stuff, some of these allegations. The Dominican Republic has a lot of relationships with Cuba.”
Hmmm. I wonder how Castro tricked Menendez into getting onto Salomon Malgen’s private plane. The Cuban spys must have put something in the senator’s cigar to make him forget to report the flights for two years.
As the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee for the Western Hemisphere, Sires is in the perfect position to get to the bottom of this and clear his friend Menendez’s name. I’m sure the committee chairman, Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), would be very interested in conducting a hearing into how the Cuban government is interfering in the business of the United States Senate.
While they’re at it, they should also investigate Dominican port security.
The New York Times reported yesterday that Malgen, Menendez’s friend and campaign contributor whose Florida office was raided by the FBI this week, is an owner of a DR port security firm. Dominican officials have been resisting honoring their contract with the firm. Menendez has intervened with the State Department to try to get the $50 million contract honored.
Aides acknowledged on Wednesday that Mr. Menendez had spoken to State Department officials about the contract. And at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere last July, he questioned two administration officials — Francisco J. Sánchez, the undersecretary for international trade at the Commerce Department, and Matthew Rooney, the deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs for the State Department — about why the United States government had not been more aggressive on the issue. The senator said more security was needed given the drug trade on the island.
Maybe Cuba is trying to smuggle drugs, rum, sugar,cigars and teen aged girls into the United States through the Dominican Republic and have paid off the DR customs officials to stop the cargo from being screened by Malgen’s company.
Sires should get to the bottom of this. He has the power.
Embattled U.S. Senator Bob Menendez reimbursed his friend and campaign contributor, West Palm Beach eye doctor Salomon Melgen $58,500 for two flights to the Dominican Republic on Melgen’s private jet almost three years after the flights took place, according to reports in The Star Ledger and The Daily Caller.
Menendez’s spokesman Paul Brubaker told the Ledger that the senator, prompted by the ethics complaint filed by NJ State Senator Sam Thompson last November, reviewed his travel and discovered that he should have paid Melgen for an August 2010 flight between Florida and the Dominican Republic and a September 2010 flight from Teterboro to the DR. Menendez paid Melgen $58,500 for the flights on January 4, 2013.
Menendez’s chief of staff, Dan O’Brien told NBC News that the over two year gap in paying for the flights was an office mistake, according to Daily Caller.
“This was sloppy,” O’Brien conceded about two 2010 flights. “I’m chalking it up to an oversight.”
No one has reported what, if anything, Menendez reimbursed Melgen for his food, lodging and party favors on the trips. Senate rules prohibited members from accepting gifts valued at more the $250 without prior permission from the ethics committee. We’d call Brubaker, but he stopped returning our calls last summer during the senator’s campaign.
Menendez finally denied he had sex with prostitutes while in the Dominican Republic, saying the charges were manufactured by a right-wing blog. Presumably he’s referring to Daily Caller.
FoxNews reported last night that Menendez cleared his Washington schedule yesterday. He cancelled a meeting with Treasury Secretary nominee Jack Lew and skipped John Kerry’s fare well speech on the Senate floor.
On the home front however, it was politics as usual for Menendez. Yesterday afternoon he sent out a fundraising email asking his supporters to thank Hillary Clinton for her years of service.