Wednesday, January 30, 2013

NY Times On Menendez Under-Age Prostitute Scandal: He's Single and Prostitution Is Legal In The Dominican Republic

Prior to last year's election, the conservative Daily Caller had an exclusive story about purported trips New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez (D) had taken aboard a large campaign contributor's private jet to an exclusive resort in the Dominican Republic where prostitutes were procured for his benefit. The report came during the midst of Menendez' re-election campaign and after one of his largest campaign contributors had already been indicted for making more than $20,000 in illegal contributions to his campaign through other family members and employees, who were later reimbursed by the contributor. Not a single mainstream media outlet picked up the Daily Caller report; instead, they provided him endless positive coverage, along with President Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, for the government response to Hurricane Sandy, which we all know was even more lackluster than the government's initial response to Hurricane Katrina.

Within the past week, news surfaced that a senior investigative reporter for ABC News had learned of the prostitution allegations against Menendez as early as May of last year when e-mails of an ongoing FBI investigation that began  last August were made public months before the Daily Caller report. Those e-mails revealed that the investigation focused on Menendez' use of underage prostitutes. The Daily Caller indicated there were additional questions about whether Menendez had been skirting Senate ethics rules regarding disclosure of trips paid by third parties. When Menendez appeared for a lengthy interview on ABC' "This Week," the show's host didn't ask Menendez a single question about the reported FBI investigation of him. Can you imagine a Republican facing similar questions being given a complete pass by a member of the mainstream media? The mainstream media similarly downplayed reports that the Department of Homeland Security had delayed the arrest of an intern employed by Menendez' office, who was an undocumented alien and a registered sex offender, until after the election.

Even after learning FBI agents had raided the offices of Menendez' wealthy campaign contributor in Miami, the New York Times' Joe Coscarelli lamented about Menendez' friends making him look a bit shady and "a right-wing attempt" to bring him down. Speaking of the Daily Caller story, Coscarelli wrote dismissively of the allegations, noting that Menendez is single and that prostitution is legal in the Dominican Republic:
New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez easily won reelection in November despite a last-minute, right-wing attempt to bring him down. Most people just chuckled when Tucker Carlson's the Daily Caller floated a big exclusive — right after Hurricane Sandy — and then proceeded to call the Senator "Latin Lover" for allegedly, maybe, possibly paying for sex in the Dominican Republic (he's not married and it's legal there). But the issue isn't going away yet, and it's not the only questionable association lingering in the Menendez universe.
No shades of Bob Packwood here? Remember, he's the Republican Senator from Oregon (also single at the time), who feminists and Democrats on Capitol Hill clamored loudly about until they shamed him into resigning over allegations that he mistreated and sexually harassed women staffers and lobbyists, paving the way for a Democrat to replace him in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who claimed during last year's election without any substantiation that Mitt Romney hadn't paid federal income taxes for years, dismissed the prostitution allegations against Menendez, choosing instead to attack the Daily Caller. “I always consider the source,” Reid said, referring to TheDC, “and all anyone here has to look at is the source where this comes from. It’s — it’s a source that has brought up a lot of non-issues.”

After yesterday's news that FBI agents had raided his wealthy benefactor's business in Miami, Menendez finally acknowledged he had taken three trips on Dr. Salomon Malgen's private jet but did not state where or when those trips were taken. He denied the prostitution allegations, blaming the Daily Caller for the unsubstantiated reports. His office said the reports "are manufactured by a politically motivated right-wing blog and are false." The Miami Herald reported that Dr. Melgen had  contributed at least $357,000 to politicians, including Menendez despite owing the government $11 million in unpaid taxes. "Despite his financial woes, Melgen lives a lavish lifestyle, including his own private jet which he frequently uses to travel between Florida and the Dominican resort town of Casa de Campo where the doctor is from," the Herald reported. Gee, where have we heard that before?

Late tonight, ABC News reports that Menendez reimbursed Dr. Malgen $58,500 for the full cost of two out of three trips on the donor's plane to the Dominican Republic. That's a heck of a lot of money for just two trips. The report adds, "There was no public disclosure" of the reimbursements. The Star-Ledger adds that Menendez didn't reimburse Dr. Malgen for the trips until this year--after the Daily Caller report and more than two years after they were taken. The disclosure also did not come until after a New Jersey Republican filed a complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee. Menendez' spokesman explained the sudden rush to reimburse the trips:
“In the weeks that ensued, after that very extensive review which was a time consuming laborious project, the issue of these two trips came up, and the senator had basically consulted with the campaign’s legal counsel and found that he had two options,” said Brubaker. “Basically he could, according to Senate ethics rules, use an exemption under the personal friendship rule, or simply pay the reimbursements for the flights. In order to just demonstrate full compliance he decided to pay the reimbursement.”
Senate rules, however, only allow members to claim the personal friendship exemption for gifts valued under $250. Otherwise they must seek written approval from the ethics committee.
Brubaker said that is not an issue because the senator chose to reimburse Melgen for the flights, even if it was more than two years later. Menendez's office said nothing in the law says the reimbursement must be immediate.
“In order to just demonstrate full compliance he decided to pay the reimbursements and then, having paid out of his own personal resources, did not have an obligation to make any kind of documentary report on that,” he said.
It makes you wonder just how often our elected politicians take all-expense paid trips that are never reported. It happens all the time here in Indiana with our elected officials. Many officials accept free trips to Florida to golf, fish or just relax, usually courtesy of well-heeled lobbyists and businessmen. Not a single one of them ever reported their trips on Ponzi schemer Tim Durham's private jet to stay aboard his yacht in Miami Beach. A friend of mine recounted boarding a commercial flight to Florida several years ago and encountering a young freshman lawmaker (who now works as a lobbyist) boarding the same flight with a couple of lobbyists to go on a fishing trip. That's why most prefer to ride on private jets. There's less chance of getting caught. By the way, doesn't Jerry Slusser have private jets? Just thinking out loud.

1 comment:

TMLutas said...

Take a look at Sen. Menendez' committee assignments to maybe get an idea why this is a touch problematic. He's the chair of the Western Hemisphere subcommittee of the Committee on Foreign Relations. Could there be some intelligence links somewhere in there? Maybe a woman, maybe the hotel he stayed at? Perhaps there's a film floating around.

Perhaps a smarter senator would take his sex tourism trips to a country not within his committee jurisdictions? Perhaps a smarter senator could keep his pants zipped and vet his staff competently.