The Menendez Conundrum – Do We Care? [POLL]
Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ve probably heard the news about the allegations leveled against newly reelected Senator Bob Menendez regarding his dealings with a Florida eye doctor supplying him with vacations in exchange for a port security deal in the Dominica Republic, and reportedly consorting with underage prostitutes while visiting the DR.
The FBI can’t prove he patronized prostitutes.
The Washington Post reports that the FBI has been looking into claims — first reported by the Daily Caller — that the New Jersey Democrat twice flew to the Dominican Republican for a bit of sex tourism along with eye doctor, friend, and major donor Salomon Melgen. (Melgen himself is the subject of an $8.9 million Medicare fraud investigation.)
While Menendez's recent decision to reimburse Melgen $58,500 for the cost of the previously undisclosed trips (the pair flew on Melgen's private jet) didn't make things look any less shady, the Post says that investigators have failed to turn up any evidence that Menendez actually attended "prostitution parties" with "young" (or "not legal") prostitutes, as an "unknown tipster" had suggested.
Still, Menendez isn't exactly off the hook: Because according to this:
The FBI agents are also examining the role Menendez played in advocating for a port security contract in the Dominican Republic that would benefit Melgen, two people familiar with the case said. Menendez has urged U.S. officials to put pressure on the Dominican government to enforce the dormant contract, saying enhanced port security is important for interdicting drug trafficking. Melgen is an investor in the company holding the contract.
The staff member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the senator’s efforts on behalf of the port deal were appropriate. “The senator has had a long history of advocating for increased port security across the world,” the aide said.
Separately, Melgen is under criminal investigation over allegations of Medicare fraud. Three people with knowledge of the probe disclosed this week that it focuses on whether Melgen defrauded the government by overcharging Medicare for millions of dollars in eye injections and billing the government for treatments that were unnecessary.
Prostitution is not illegal in the Dominican Republic. But soliciting underage prostitutes is illegal. Also, a politician who accepts free gifts and special favors in exchange for official acts can face criminal prosecution for abuse of public office.
At the moment, according to another report,
he has met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai — to talk about ways to curb corruption.
Mr. Karzai’s office said, “Afghanistan needs earnest and sincere cooperation of the international community, particularly of the United States in its fight against corruption,” Breitbart reports. “The president called awarding of contracts to relatives and affiliates of Afghan senior officials a major source of corruption, underscoring that the United States should avoid it.”
Mr. Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, heads the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
Accusations aren’t convictions, but his actions in the recent past call into question as to whether or not some of those accusations have any truth to them.
But the larger question is, do we just accept these accusations as the norm for a New Jersey politician?
The answer seems obvious. Soprano State a go-go!