Murray McCully and Tim Groser think they have it sweet…but they aren’t explaining hookers and private jets:
Sen. Robert Menendez, the powerful New Jersey Democrat who this week was named chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is facing a Senate ethics probe into whether he accepted inappropriate gifts from a wealthy Florida eye surgeon who is under FBI investigation.
The Senate Ethics Committee is conducting a preliminary investigation of two trips Menendez took to a luxury beach resort in the Dominican Republic in August and September 2010 as a guest of Dr. Salomon Melgen, a longtime friend and political donor.
The review comes on the heels of an FBI raid on Melgen’s medical offices in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Tuesday night and Wednesday as part of an investigation into what sources called possible Medicaid fraud.
But wait it get’s better:Â
One of South Florida’s most prominent eye surgeons, Melgen has given substantial contributions to Menendez and other politicians, mostly Democrats. Last year, he contributed $700,000 to the Majority PAC, which supported Democratic candidates. The group, in turn, spent $582,500 to support Menendez’s successful bid for reelection. Melgen has also given $33,700 directly to Menendez.
Officials said Menendez didn’t follow Senate rules when he failed to report flights aboard Melgen’s private jet as gifts on federal financial disclosure forms, or to pay for them. He wrote a $58,500 check to reimburse Melgen last month after questions arose in the media and after Republicans in New Jersey filed a federal ethics complaint.
Menendez’s aides called the failure to pay earlier an inadvertent oversight. Menendez and Melgen have denied any wrongdoing, and they have denounced as false published allegations that they had consorted with prostitutes.
“The senator and the doctor have been friends for 20 years, and it’s not uncommon for them to go places together,” said Melgen’s attorney, Dean L. Wilbur.
Go place together? Like to brothels?