The scandal-plagued senator's jet-setting friend also has a tax evasion problem.
Put on your shocked faces: Since my bipartisan call last week for Democratic women to join the Ladies Against Senator Sleaze-Bob movement, not a single Democratic woman in Washington has signed up. Here's the thing. The brewing scandal involving N.J. Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, the new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is not just a "sex scandal." It's a crony corruption scandal of sordid, soap operatic proportions.
Maybe if Menendez were a contestant on "The Bachelor," he'd finally command more widespread female attention. For their part, the Democratic women on Capitol Hill seem as uninterested in the alleged exploitation of underage prostitutes as they are in cozy donor deals, tax evasion and Medicare fraud.
Shady Menendez campaign contributor and BFF Salomon Melgen is the high-flying eye doctor at the center of the senior senator's ills. Melgen is owner of the Casa de Campo resort home where he and Menendez reportedly engaged in sexual romps with a bevy of Dominican escorts, including at least one minor girl. In his latest statement on the matter Monday, Menendez repeated his blanket denials of any wrongdoing, recycled his attack on conservative media reporting the story and labeled accounts of the alleged island sex parties "smears."
While his lips keep denying, his actions smack of lying. Last week, he sheepishly disclosed that he had just reimbursed Melgen in January of this year for nearly $60,000 in expenses tied to two of three private jet trips to the Dominican Republic in 2010 — which he had never admitted taking before. Senate rules require prior approval of such private jet travel and luxury lodging. Senate rules also require financial disclosure of such gifts after approval.
Menendez ignored all the rules, blamed his staff and now wheedles that the matter simply "fell through the cracks."
But you know what didn't fall through the cracks? A special multimillion-dollar port security contract Melgen wanted with the Dominican Republic. The politically connected ophthalmologist — who forked over $700,000 to help Menendez and other Democrats get re-elected last cycle — has zero experience in port security.
But Menendez used a Senate hearing last summer to lobby for enforcement of the contract Melgen's company has with the Dominican government.
Menendez also met with officials from the Obama State and Commerce departments on the matter, though he was careful not to mention Melgen by name. One of Menendez's longtime senior legislative aides, Pedro Pablo Permuy, will be in charge of operations, according to Melgen's cousin and legal mouthpiece Vinicio Castillo Seman. The contract is estimated to be worth up to $1 billion over the next 20 years, according to The Miami Herald.
How do you say "crony government" in Spanish? Know-nothing Menendez denies any knowledge of his veteran aide's involvement with the company, of course. Or rather, his lips have issued another in a long line of denials.
Wait, there's more. While Melgen shelled out millions to Menendez and the Democratic Party over the years, he is a serial tax evader. The jet-setting doc incurred liens of $1.3 million before 2002, $6.2 million in 2011, and a still outstanding $11.1 million lien between 2006 and 2009. And the FBI and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — not a part of the "right-wing" blogosphere the last time I checked — are now sifting through boxes of documents they carted away during last week's raid of Melgen's offices as part of a Medicare fraud investigation.
The feds finally acted after a document shredding truck was spotted outside Melgen's clinic. I think it's safe to say a "right-wing blog" didn't send it.
So far, the magical "D" after Sen. Sleaze-Bob's name has conferred supernatural immunity upon him. New Jersey Democrats are AWOL. Liberal columnists for the nation's fishwraps of record remain uninterested. David Letterman was too busy trading fat jokes with donut-munching N.J. Gov. Chris Christie. And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stubbornly clung to his assertion this week that Menendez "did nothing wrong."
But the mountains of Things Menendez Should Have Known But Conveniently Overlooked and Things Menendez Should Have Done But Conveniently Forgot just keep growing. My invitation to Democratic women on Capitol Hill to join Ladies Against Senator Sleaze-Bob still stands. Guess it must have fallen through the cracks.
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