Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) Named One of the Most Corrupt Members of Congress
Washington, D.C. — Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) named Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) one of the most corrupt members of Congress. Sen. Menendez is reportedly under federal investigation for taking official actions to benefit Dr. Salomon Melgen, a close friend and campaign donor. He is also the subject of an ethics investigation for failing to disclose gifts he received, earning the senator a place in CREW’s Most Corrupt Members of Congress report, an annual, bipartisan look at Washington’s worst.
“Sadly, friendship is rarely a straightforward proposition when power is involved,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “Sen. Menendez’s relationship with Dr. Melgen is transactional: campaign cash and lavish gifts for the senator, official favors and influence for the businessman.”
Sen. Menendez has maintained a close personal relationship with Dr. Melgen, a Florida ophthalmologist. Dr. Melgen and his family have contributed generously to the senator’s campaign committee, leadership political action committee (PAC), and legal defense fund, and to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee while Sen. Menendez served as its chairman. Dr. Melgen’s company also made six-figure donations last year to Majority PAC, a super PAC supporting Sen. Menendez’s reelection, and, apparently at the senator’s request, to local Democratic committees in New Jersey. In 2010, Sen. Menendez took two personal trips aboard Dr. Melgen’s private jet to the Dominican Republic. Sen. Menendez never disclosed the flights as gifts, and only reimbursed Dr. Melgen’s company for their cost in January 2013, after the Middlesex County Republicans filed an ethics complaint.
A federal grand jury has reportedly been investigating whether Sen. Menendez used his position to benefit Dr. Melgen’s business interests. In 2008, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ruled Dr. Melgen had overbilled the government and had to repay $8.9 million. After Dr. Melgen contacted Sen. Menendez’s office, the senator personally spoke to agency officials twice. The FBI raided the Florida offices of Dr. Melgen’s clinic this past January, reportedly over allegations of health care fraud.
Sen. Menendez and his staff also attempted to pressure administration officials to help prod the Dominican government to honor a lucrative contract with Dr. Melgen’s port security company. A former adviser to Sen. Menendez, who was reportedly in line for an executive position at Dr. Melgen’s company, arranged a meeting for Dr. Melgen at the State Department.
Sloan concluded, “The Department of Justice and the Senate Ethics Committee need to determine whether Sen. Menendez abused to his power to assist his personal and political benefactor.”
This is the ninth edition of CREW’s Most Corrupt report, an annual look at unethical conduct by members of Congress. This year’s list includes 6 Democrats and 11 Republicans; 10 are repeat offenders. Since 2005, CREW has named 88 members of Congress to the list, 45 of whom are no longer in office. Sen. Menendez is one of two members from New Jersey included in this year’s report.