Share This Page

The company Menendez keeps

| Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Since my bipartisan call for women to join the Ladies Against Senator Sleaze-Bob movement, not a single Democrat in Washington has signed up. Here's the thing: The brewing scandal involving New Jersey Democrat 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.

For their part, the Democrat 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.

Menendez campaign contributor and friend 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. Menendez last week 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.”

But also last week, he sheepishly disclosed that he had reimbursed Melgen in January 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. The 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 that 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 that Melgen's company has with the Dominican government.

The contract is estimated to be worth up to $1 billion over the next 20 years, according to The Miami Herald.

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 a recent raid of Melgen's offices as part of a Medicare fraud investigation.

So far, the magical “D” after Menendez's name has conferred supernatural immunity upon him. New Jersey Democrats are AWOL. Liberal columnists for the nation's fish wraps of record remain uninterested. And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stubbornly clings to his assertion that Menendez “did nothing wrong.”

My invitation to Democrat women on Capitol Hill to join Ladies Against Senator Sleaze-Bob still stands. Guess it must have fallen through the cracks.

Michelle Malkin is the author of “Culture of Corruption: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks and Cronies” (Regnery 2009).

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.