He says he is not going anywhere, but if charges due prove he is just another corrupt senator a New Jersey senator may not be able to stand by his words.
On Friday, controversy hit the garden state when it was revealed that the Department of Justice is planning on filing criminal corruption charges against the state’s senator Senator Bob Menendez who has been accused of using his position to promote and secure the interests of a South Florida doctor. But are the charges against Menendez purely premature since it is nothing but a friendship between a politician and a businessman?
Having served as Senator for 23 years, Menendez is recognized as one of the highest ranking Latino members in Congress and is being accused of using his Senate seat to aid the efforts of an eye doctor who lives in South Florida by the name of Doctor Salomon Melgen.
“As we have said before, we believe all of the senator’s actions have been appropriate and lawful and the facts will ultimately confirm that. Any actions taken by Sen. Menendez or his office have been to appropriately address public policy issues and not for any other reason,” said Tricia Enright, Menendez’ communication director, in a statement released on Friday regarding the announcement of pending charges.
“Let me be very clear—very clear—I have always conducted myself appropriately and in accordance with the law,” said Menendez at a news conference on Friday evening responded to the pending charges against him.
During an investigation led by the Associated Press, it was found that Menendez had sponsored legislation that would have provided incentives for conversions that dealt with natural gas which would have benefitted Melgen.
Melgen is a known political donor of Menendez having donation more than $700,000 to both Menendez and other Senate democrats during the 2013 election. During those elections, Menendez was seeking re-election.
In 2010, Melgen became a part of the board of directors of Gaseous Fuel Systems Corporation—or GFS for short—located in Weston, Florida. Known for its designs, GPS manufactures and sells products that aid in converting diesel-fuel fleets into natural gas. Prior to his board position, Melgen was an investor and according to the company’s chief executive was the company’s former consultant.
From 2009-2012, Menendez was a principal supporter of a natural gas bill that would permit a boost in tax credits and grants offered to truck and heavy vehicle fleets that underwent conversion into alternative fuels provided by companies like GFS. However, the bill stalled in the Senate Finance Committee in 2009 failed to win the needed 60 votes to advance in 2012 when it was revived.
In-between 2009 and 2011, the former-consultant for GFS had spent an estimated $220,000 lobbying Menendez’s staff and other congressional and federal officials who were connected to the act’s provisions as well as other regulatory issues, revealed by the AP who found interviews and Senate records.
During his press conference, Menendez stated that Melgen is nothing more than a close personal friend whom the two have said spent holidays together with family and during moments like birthdays, holidays and weddings presents were exchanged as they normally are between friends.
“Anyone who knows us knows he and his family, and me and my family, have been real friends for more than two decades,” he said.
According to the AP’s investigation, there currently is no evidence that shows Menendez had offered direct help or intervened on GFS’s or Melgen’s behalf. However, they do claim it is another example on how the connection between the two men’s interests in natural gas is the latest example of the close symmetry between the senator and his millionaire backer.
So, is Menendez’s personal relationship with a known businessman just that or is there some play being had and requires some questioning because it may violate the morality of his position as a senator? Or is Menendez being sought out since he was caught or because he is Latino? Menendez is certainly not the only senator to have a close relationship to a person in a position as Melgen is.
Whatever the grounds of their relationship are, it will only be a matter of time before it is revealed. What should become more of a focus is the relationship between politicians and political candidates with lobbyists who are the very creation of what happens when politics, the interests of the people, are crushed for personal interests.