WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors charged Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez and wealthy donor Salomon Melgen on Wednesday with participating in a long-running bribery scheme.
New Jersey’s senior senator used his office to benefit the Florida eye doctor in exchange for nearly $1 million in gifts and campaign contributions, prosecutors say.
A 68-page indictment outlines 14 criminal counts against Menendez, 61, including eight counts of bribery. Melgen, a 61-year-old West Palm Beach, Fla., ophthalmologist, faces 13 counts, also including eight bribery counts.
Those are some pretty tough accusations. What does the senator have to say about all of this?
Menendez has acknowledged that he flew multiple times on Melgen’s private jet to the Dominican Republic and initially failed to properly pay for the trips. In 2013, Menendez agreed to reimburse Melgen $58,500 for the full cost of two flights.
The senator’s office later disclosed another flight from Florida to New Jersey in 2011, and said Menendez had repaid Melgen $11,250 for it.
Last year, Menendez disclosed that his campaign accounts had paid a law firm $250,000 for legal costs related to investigations by the Justice Department and the Senate Ethics Committee of his ties to Melgen.
Menendez has also acknowledged taking actions that could benefit Melgen, among them contacting U.S. health agencies to ask about billing practices and policies.
But the lawmaker has said he did nothing wrong and that he and Melgen have been friends for decades.
“We celebrated holidays together,” he once told reporters. “We have been there for family weddings and sad times like funerals and have given each other birthday, holiday and wedding presents, just as friends do.”
That is some defense. “But the lawmaker has said he did nothing wrong and that he and Melgen have been friends for decades.” Senator, what about your constituents? What about the people who voted for you? What about the people in New Jersey you are supposed to represent? Aren’t they your friends, as well? Maybe so, but then those people forgot to give the senator free rides to the Dominican Republic. Senator, I’ve been the the Dominican Republic, as well, and as I recall I got there the traditional way. I purchased an airline ticket.
But what else can the senator’s constituents expect? They live in New Jersey. Maybe they should consider moving down to Texas. Wait. Never mind.