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Menendez legal fees spike as donors disappear, FEC filing shows

Challengers Kim and Murphy both finished year with $2.7 million

Facing indictment, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., saw his fundraising evaporate as legal fees spiked in the fourth quarter of 2023.
Facing indictment, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., saw his fundraising evaporate as legal fees spiked in the fourth quarter of 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey saw his campaign fund-raising tank and legal fees spike in the fourth quarter of last year as he rejected calls to resign following a four-count federal indictment in September accusing him of bribery and other crimes, a disclosure filed Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission showed.

Donors gave Menendez just $15,795, while he paid out $405 more, or $16,200, in refunds during the last three months of 2023. He entered the fourth quarter with $8.6 million, and that balance threw off $88,000 in interest, so his receipts were $104,000. 

But Menendez spent $2.4 million and had $6.2 million in his account on Dec. 31. Legal fees dominated the outlays, as the campaign paid $1 million to Paul Hastings LLP, $654,000 to Winston & Strawn LLP, $175,000 to McDermott Will & Emery LLP, $300,000 to Schertler & Onorato LLP and $200,000 to Jones Day. 

[Menendez to colleagues: They could come for you next]

Menendez’s leadership PAC, called New Millennium PAC, filed a report covering July through December that said it took in $45,000, but nearly all of it was before his indictment was announced in September. The PAC made a $10,000 contribution, the maximum allowed per year, to Menendez’s separate legal defense fund, which earlier this month reported an additional $318,000 in payments to law firms.

Menendez, whose trial is set for May, has not said if he will seek reelection. The deadline to run in New Jersey’s June primary is at the end of March.

Two Democrats vying for his seat, Rep. Andy Kim and New Jersey first lady Tammy Murphy, each reported finishing the year with $2.7 million in their campaign accounts. Kim, who launched his campaign within days of Menendez’s indictment, took in $1.8 million during the quarter, while Murphy raised $3.2 million.

The wife of Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy who, like her husband, previously worked at Goldman Sachs, Tammy Murphy has said she would not tap her personal wealth to fund the campaign. The only self-funding she reported in the fourth quarter was a pair of $3,300 contributions, the maximum allowed for an individual, that listed her occupation as chair of Gotham FC, a professional women’s soccer team partly owned by the couple.

Patricia Campos-Medina, another Democratic contender, entered the race after the filing period ended on Dec. 31.

Republican candidate Christine Serrano Glassner reported $266,000 in receipts, including a $200,000 personal loan, and had $265,000 on hand on Dec. 31.

New Jersey has not elected a Republican to the Senate since 1972, and the Democratic primary likely will choose the favorite for November. Murphy has pulled support from county party committees, but Kim is railing against the state’s system that allows county parties to award preferential placement on the primary ballot. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the November race Likely Democratic.

Chris Marquette contributed to this report.

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