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Menendez’s Ties to Donors Under Further Scrutiny

Sen. Robert Menendez continues to be hammered in media reports this week, with scrutiny expanding beyond alleged rendezvous with prostitutes and his cozy relationship with longtime doctor-donor friend Salomon Melgen.

Nearly a decade ago, when Menendez was a member of the House, the New Jersey Democrat made a failed attempted to stop a merger that would have hurt a company in which he had invested, according to a report in The Washington Free Beacon.

Menendez also assisted a company involved in a contract dispute in the Dominican Republic that benefited New Jersey investors who contributed to his campaign, according to a Newark Star-Ledger report.

In the months leading up to the merger between Univision and the Hispanic Broadcasting Corp. in September 2003, Menendez testified during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing that the union would make it difficult for other Spanish-language media organizations to compete in the market, citing as an example the Spanish Broadcasting System.

At the time, Menendez owned stock in the Spanish Broadcasting System worth as much as $15,000, according to his financial disclosure form that year, and some of the company’s executives were reliable campaign donors.

Spanish Broadcasting System Chairman Raúl Alarcón Jr., for example, donated $145,000 to Menendez directly and indirectly over the past three election cycles, through contributions to his campaign and to committees supporting him, according to an analysis of Center for Responsive Politics data. Alarcón gave $4,600 to the senator’s campaign committee and $10,000 to his personal political action committee, the New Millennium PAC. He also donated $30,400 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee when Menendez was chairman, and $100,000 to the super PAC known as Majority PAC, which generously backed the senator during his recent re-election campaign.

Last summer, Menendez became involved in a contract dispute between Codacsa and the government in the Dominican Republic. Codacsa had been awarded an international arbitration award worth more than $40 million and Menendez used his chairmanship of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps and Global Narcotics Affairs to urge the U.S. government to push for the enforcement of the award, the Star-Ledger reported.

As CQ Roll Call has reported, quid pro quo schemes are difficult to prove. A successful case could not be built on two seemingly related actions — favors, contributions — unless there was evidence of intent gained from reliable witness interviews, the use of a wiretap or written communication about the scheme, legal experts said.

Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., ranking member of the Ethics Committee, has said the panel is “aware” of the media reports but has not confirmed whether a formal probe is under way.

Menendez’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the Free Beacon and Star-Ledger reports.

Eliza Newlin Carney contributed to this report.

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