The allegations against Senator Robert Menendez have moved to a point of no return in my view. Menendez has been accused of liaisons with underage girls on trips arranged by a wealthy campaign donor and friend. He denies the allegations. However, in my view, he should lose his seat over a confirmed fact: he accepted $60,000 in travel benefits from the wealthy donor who benefited from legislative action by Menendez. Menendez recently paid back the money, but it required him to liquidate as much as 87 percent of his personal wealth — making the benefit even more significant to the Senator.
In this case, Menendez enjoyed $58,000 worth of trips to the Dominican Republic paid for by Florida eye doctor and political donor Salomon Melgen. At these parties, Menendez is accused of having sex with underaged girls including one who says that she sleep with the Senator on repeated occasions.
Menendez reimbursed Melgen the $58,500 on January 4th after the media got hold of the story. He emphasized that fact that he has little personal wealth, though that would make these gifts even more significant in their impact to him and more difficult to forget. Indeed, it is as worrisome that such trips, according to Menendez, “fell through the cracks” given the significance of their value.
Melgen and his wife have given tens of thousands of dollars to Menendez as well as having their company give $700,000 to a super PAC dedicated to electing Senate Democrats. That group, Majority PAC, gave $582,500 to Menendez’s campaign.
Menendez has been plagued by continual ethical issues from alleged sweetheart deals on rental properties to, in 2010, a troubling intervention for campaign donors. Menendez wrote to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to ask him to approve an acquisition that would rescue a bank from receivership, a New Jersey bank, First Bank Americano, operated by his contributors. The letter was later described by a federal bank regulator, William Black, as “grotesquely inappropriate.”
It seems to me that, regardless of the child prostitution allegations, Menendez has again crossed the line and shown that corruption continues in both parties unabated. While Menendez remains a powerful ally of President Obama and leader in the party, he should be toast on the issue of the gift alone but in the perverse world of congressional ethics he could well survive this latest scandal.
Source: National Journal