Before we get into the Republican National Committee’s ad about the corruption trial involving Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), let’s rehash why he’s facing these charges. Well, maybe it has to do with him intervening on behalf of his friend, Dr. Salomon Melgen, during a Medicare dispute, taking his private jet to luxurious locations, and greasing the wheels to obtain visas for Melgen’s girlfriends. Politico has a good rundown:
Menendez’s relationship with Dr. Salomon Melgen, a close friend and donor, first came under scrutiny in early 2013 after media reports revealed that the New Jersey Democrat was flying on Melgen’s plane to the doctor’s “luxurious” villa in the Dominican Republic. Menendez did not report any of the flights, a potential violation of Senate rules and federal law. When the press disclosed the reports, Menendez cut Melgen a $58,000 check to cover the cost of the flights, but federal prosecutors say there were additional unreported trips.
Menendez intervened on Melgen’s behalf with the Department of Health and Human Services to resolve a $9 million Medicare billing dispute, dragging in then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner.
Menendez also sought the State Department’s help over a $500 million port security contract Melgen had with the Dominican Republic. Menendez even assisted with visas for several of Melgen’s foreign girlfriends, according to prosecutors.
Melgen and his family members donated hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions directly to Menendez’s reelection campaign, as well as to a Democratic super PAC that backed Menendez’s 2012 reelection effort.
Menendez and Melgen were indicted in April 2015 on a slew of federal corruption charges related to the senator’s alleged acceptance of hundreds of thousands of dollars in improper gifts and campaign contributions as bribes in exchange for using his office to help Melgen. These include eight counts of bribery, three counts of honest services fraud, one count of conspiracy, and one count of violating the Travel Act. Menendez was also charged with one count of making false statements.
Melgen has already been convicted in a multimillion-dollar Medicare fraud case in Florida and is awaiting sentencing. Prosecutors may seek as much as 30 years in prison for Melgen in that case, a potential life sentence for the 62-year-old ophthalmologist.
So, what happens if Menendez is convicted? Shouldn’t he be shown the door, the way Senate Democrats wanted for the late Ted Stevens when he was convicted of corruption charges, which by the way, was possibly the result of a botched prosecution on behalf of the Justice Department.
“It’s time to put an end to the corruption and influence-peddling…Senator Stevens should step down,” said then-Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) in October of 2008.
“The reality is that a convicted felon is not going to be able to serve in the United States Senate,“said then-Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid in November of 2008.
“It is clear that Sen. Stevens has broken his trust with the people and that he should now step down,” said Senator John McCain in October of 2008. It was a moot point since the corruption story sunk Stevens’ 2008 re-election campaign. Still, Democrats know the stakes if they lose Menendez’s vote; maybe that’s why the media is mum on the story, and why some Democrats are acting shamelessly hypocritical.
“I don’t think Menendez has to run out and resign if he’s convicted,” said Brad Woodhouse, former communications director for the Democratic National Committee. It’s all in the ad. Enjoy: