|Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) (Getty Images)
According to allegations in the indictment, between January 2006 and January 2013, Menendez accepted close to $1 million worth of lavish gifts and campaign contributions from Melgen in exchange for using the power of his Senate office to influence the outcome of ongoing contractual and Medicare billing disputes worth tens of millions of dollars to Melgen and to support the visa applications of several of Melgen’s girlfriends.
Specifically, the indictment alleges that, among other gifts, Menendez accepted flights on Melgen’s private jet, a first-class commercial flight and a flight on a chartered jet; numerous vacations at Melgen’s Caribbean villa in the Dominican Republic and at a hotel room in Paris; and $40,000 in contributions to his legal defense fund and over $750,000 in campaign contributions. Menendez never disclosed any of the reportable gifts that he received from Melgen on his financial disclosure forms.
According to allegations in the indictment, during this same time period, Menendez allegedly engaged in three efforts to use his Senate office and staff to advocate on behalf of Melgen’s personal and financial interests. First, Menendez allegedly pressured executive agencies in connection with a conflict between Melgen and the government of the Dominican Republic relating to a disputed contract that Melgen purchased to provide exclusive screening of containers coming through Dominican ports. Second, Menendez allegedly advocated on behalf of Melgen in connection with a Medicare billing dispute worth approximately $8.9 million to Melgen. Third, Menendez allegedly took active steps to support the tourist and student visa applications of three of Melgen’s girlfriends, as well as the visa application of the younger sister of one of Melgen’s girlfriends. Throughout these efforts, Menendez allegedly engaged in advocacy for Melgen all the way up to the highest levels of the U.S. government, including meeting with a U.S. cabinet secretary, contacting a U.S. Ambassador, meeting with the heads of executive agencies and other senior executive officials and soliciting other U.S. Senators, all in order to assist Melgen’s personal and pecuniary interests.The indictment makes no allegations regarding prostitutes that may have been procured for Menendez as some earlier media reports had suggested. It would be interesting to know what, if anything, Hillary Clinton or her top aides at State Department may have played in assisting Melgen's girlfriends obtain visas. Who was the cabinet secretary with whom the press release says Menendez met to discuss the visas. [Update: No such luck. The cabinet secretary was HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.]
Sen. Menendez, while insisting he was innocent of the charges, stepped down from his role as ranking minority member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where his views clashed frequently with those of the Obama administration, particularly on American relations with Cuba and Iran. "I am outraged that prosecutors at the Justice Department were tricked into starting this investigation three years ago with false allegations by those who have a political motive to silence me," Menendez said. "I will not be silenced. I'm confident at the end of the day I will be vindicated and they will be exposed."
A full copy of the indictment can be viewed here. After reading it, you can't help but wonder why the hell there haven't been dozens of Indiana politicians similarly charged by the Justice Department based on the standards for breaking the law set out in this indictment. What Menendez is accused of doing is standard operating business here. Gannett's boy Mitch Daniels help set that standard.