Fla. doctor's Dem ties spur FBI to inquiry
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — To some, Dr. Salomon Melgen was a miracle worker who brought sight to the blind. To others, he was a smooth political player known for rubbing elbows and jet-setting.
Whichever version of Melgen roused the interest of the FBI, which raided his offices last week, their investigation has illuminated the surgeon's ability to build ties to a host of Democratic lawmakers.
Foremost among them is Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, whose friendship with Melgen has yielded fundraisers, campaign contributions and trips on a private plane. Menendez said last week that he did nothing wrong, and flatly denied allegations reported by The Daily Caller, a conservative website, that he traveled on Melgen's plane to the Dominican Republic for sex with prostitutes.
Though facts remain piecemeal, a fuller portrait of Melgen has emerged. There are photos of the beaming doctor sandwiched between Menendez and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., a trail of checks written to politicians and a web of business interests that apparently fueled his wealth.
Melgen, 58, is a native of the Dominican Republic who has lived in the United States since at least 1980, holding medical posts across the country while building a reputation as a top ophthalmologist. He has a wife and two children.
Last year, Melgen's practice gave $700,000 to Majority PAC, a super political action committee set up to fund Democratic candidates for Senate. Aided by Melgen's donation, the super PAC became the largest outside political committee contributing to Menendez's re-election, spending more than $582,000 on the senator's behalf, according to an analysis of federal election records.
Melgen and his family have given tens of thousands more to other political causes, including directly to Menendez.
Meanwhile, a private plane owned by Melgen's company, DRM Med Assist LLC, made more than 100 trips to the Dominican Republic since July 2009, an Associated Press review of flight records found. Nearly a dozen of those trips showed brief stopovers at Washington-area airports, although it's unclear who was on board because Federal Aviation Administration rules don't require private aircraft to file flight manifests.
Menendez repaid Melgen $58,500 for two 2010 trips he labeled personal.
Whether Melgen's access or checkbook brought him any influence is unclear.
The senator appeared to have weighed in on behalf of one of Melgen's companies last July during a Senate hearing, complaining about several instances in which Latin American governments did not honor obligations with businesses. Menendez pressed two Obama administration officials about an unidentified company that provided cargo screening services at Dominican Republic ports.
Show commenting policy
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.
- Rare respiratory illness reported in at least 10 states
- Florida socialite’s lawsuit vs. feds in Petraeus scandal OK’d to proceed
- U.S. to assign 3,000 from U.S. military to fight Ebola
- Medal of Honor awarded to veterans of Vietnam War
- Black lung disease on rise in Appalachia
- House preps to aid rebels
- Meteor lights up night sky above eastern U.S.
- Coverage in jeopardy for 115K Obamacare enrollees
- U.S. will increase aid to Ebola-stricken Africa
- Medal of Honor awarded to veterans of Vietnam War
- Girl accused in stabbing to please ‘Slender Man’ to undergo competency examination