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Sen. Bob Menendez sets up legal defense fund, again

Democrat spent $230,000 from campaign fund for lawyers, consultants

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J.,  is setting up a legal defense fund after spending more than $230,000 from his campaign account for legal and related expenses.
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., is setting up a legal defense fund after spending more than $230,000 from his campaign account for legal and related expenses. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Pool file photo)

After spending more than $230,000 from his campaign account this year on lawyers and related consultants responding to what a spokesman called “an official inquiry,” Sen. Bob Menendez is setting up a legal defense fund.

It’s not the first time he’s done so.

NBC News in New York City first reported on the defense fund. Citing unnamed sources, NBC News said the New Jersey Democrat who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee faces an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York tied to a Weehawken, N.J., meat company that won an exclusive contract with the government of Egypt.

Menendez’s disclosure to the Federal Election Commission for the first three months of this year shows that while he raised $1.1 million and had $6.6 million in cash on hand, he paid $175,000 to two law firms — Winston & Strawn of Chicago and Schertler & Oronato of Washington, D. C. He also spent another $56,000 for “digital consulting services” by Chicago-based Haystack ID LLC, which advertises its expertise to law firms facing complex litigation.

A Menendez spokesman said in a statement that the spending was in response “to an official inquiry” and allowed under campaign finance laws.

“Sen. Menendez is confident that this official inquiry will be successfully closed, but as it is still unresolved, he will be opening a separate legal defense fund so as not to drain any further campaign funds,” spokesman Michael Soliman said.

Menendez has faced legal trouble before, and raised more than $5.1 million for a legal defense fund before his last election in 2018 as he battled charges including bribery and taking undisclosed gifts from a wealthy donor.

After a jury could not reach a verdict in 2017, the judge acquitted the senator in January 2018 on the most serious charges and the Justice Department later dropped the rest. Menendez was “severely adomonished” by the Senate Ethics Committee over the gifts in April 2018, but went on to win reelection that year by more than 11 points.

Soliman said being able to raise more than $1 million in the quarter more than a year before the election “shows the incredible support for Senator Menendez and his accomplishments for the people all across New Jersey and is clear evidence of his formidable strength as a candidate.”

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