Share This Page

Menendez reimbursed political donor $58,500 for 2 trips to Dominican Republic

| Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, 7:20 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Sen. Robert Menendez's office said he reimbursed a prominent Florida political donor $58,500 on Jan. 4 for the full cost of two of three trips Menendez took on the donor's plane to the Dominican Republic in 2010.

More details about the New Jersey senator's trips emerged as his office said unsubstantiated allegations that the senator engaged in sex with prostitutes in the Dominican Republic are false.

There had been no public disclosure of the two trips until now.

“The senator paid for the two trips out of his personal account and no reporting requirements apply,” Menendez spokeswoman Tricia Enright said.

The FBI searched the West Palm Beach, Fla., office of the donor — eye doctor Salomon Melgen — on Tuesday night and early Wednesday, but it was unclear if the raid was related to Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat.

A third trip by Menendez aboard Melgen's plane — a campaign fundraising journey to the donor's residence in the Dominican Republic — took place in May 2010. That trip was reported to the Federal Election Commission as a $5,400 expenditure by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which Menendez chaired. The trip, for fundraising from the community of Americans in the region, took Menendez to Puerto Rico as well as the Dominican Republic, said Menendez's office. The $5,400 was paid to one of Melgen's companies, Vitreo Retinal Consultants.

Menendez categorized the other two trips as personal. The first was Aug. 6-9, 2010, a round trip from South Florida to the Dominican Republic. The second was Sept. 3-6, 2010, from New Jersey to the Dominican Republic and back.

Menendez could have invoked what is known as a “friendship exemption” regarding the two personal trips, which would have required the senator to report the travel to the Senate Ethics Committee as a gift. Instead, Menendez chose to reimburse the full cost of the two trips.

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.