US Sen. Bob Menendez reportedly ran interference to help Dr. Salomon Melgen, a major campaign fundraiser, in an attempt to get a contract with the Dominican Republic government that could be worth at least $500 million.
As The Inquistrpreviously reported, last week the FBI raided the Florida offices of Dr. Melgen, a wealthy West Palm Beach eye doctor, who is also accused of offering free trips and possibly underage Dominican prostitutes to Sen. Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat.
Sen. Menendez has steadfastly denied any involvement with prostitutes at the Casa de Camapo resort in the DR. He did write a check to reimburse the doctor for two personal round trip plane flights. Failing to previously disclose those trips may have been a violation of Senate ethics rules.
The New York Times reported on the lucrative contract in question:
“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.”
The New Jersey Star Ledger also editorialized about the Menendez intervention in the contract dispute for ICSSI, the port security company:
“Melgen’s role seems to have been to provide political grease. The Dominican government had frozen the contract after questions surfaced about its legitimacy. The Dominican customs director had objected to its terms, which he considered too generous. In a letter, he cited the ‘lack of transparency, commercial ethics in the award of this contract.’
“The suspect contract was also opposed by the American Chamber of Commerce in the Dominican Republic.
“Why, then, did Menendez put pressure on officials at the State Department and Commerce Department over the contract during a hearing? Was he using his position on the Foreign Affairs Committee to advocate for his friend’s business interests? Keep in mind, Melgen was not a constituent; he was a money man who had given generously to Menendez.”
The senator told CNN today (see video below) that “I have always advocated for issues and I have advocated for policies, and that’s what I have done across the board.”
Sen. Menendez is scheduled to become chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as a result of John Kerry becoming Secretary of State.
The Asbury ParkPress is also asking questions about the Menendez scandal:
“Menendez’s imminent promotion to chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee needs to be put on hold until all of the allegations against him have been fully investigated by federal authorities and the ethics committee. If any of them turn out to be true, he should suffer the consequences, whatever they might be …
“Sexual scandals, ethics violations and political favors for an old friend? It is becoming difficult to simply dismiss the whole thing, as some have tried to do, as a right-wing smear campaign.”
I don’t know of Sen. Bob Menendez belongs in the Senate, but he definitely belongs on the foreign relations committee.
— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) February 3, 2013