Sen. Menendez Sure Likes Dr. Melgen And Port Security
February 11, 2013 - 2:56 pm
So, Eric Lipton and William K. Rushbaum of the New York Times are keeping the Menendez snowball of corruption rolling, and wrote today that:
Senator Robert Menendez sought to discourage any plan by the United States government to donate port security equipment to the Dominican Republic, citing concern that the advanced screening gear might undermine efforts by a private company — run by a major campaign contributor and friend of his — to do the work.
The intervention with the Department of Homeland Security last month came even though Mr. Menendez has publicly chastised the Obama administration for not doing more to combat the surging drug traffic moving through Dominican ports.
And it came shortly after the senator’s friend, Dr. Salomon E. Melgen, arranged to meet with a senior State Department official, accompanied by a former aide to Mr. Menendez, in a related push to protect the port security contract, which is worth as much as $500 million over 20 years. Officials at the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department declined to comment on the matter, with a State Department official citing an investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee into related matters.
Mr. Menendez has broadly rejected any suggestion that his official actions have been driven by an effort to favor Dr. Melgen, a wealthy Florida ophthalmologist who has repeatedly flown the senator on his private plane and has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to support Democrats in the Senate as well as Mr. Menendez’s re-election campaign. “Nobody has bought me, No. 1. Nobody. Never,” Mr. Menendez said in an interview late last week with Univision, the Spanish-language news station. “In the 20 years that I have been in Congress, never has it been suggested that this could even be possible.”
The relationship between Dr. Melgen and the New Jersey senator has drawn scrutiny in recent weeks as Mr. Menendez, a Democrat, has taken over the chairmanship of the powerful Foreign Relations Committee.
Also, there were emails.
In a January e-mail exchange with Customs and Border Protection in the Department of Homeland Security, Mr. Menendez’s staff did not mention Dr. Melgen or his company, Boarder Support Services, by name.
But the aide asked if the United States government was planning to donate additional port security equipment to the Dominican Republic. The aide explained that if such a donation occurred, the Dominican government, perhaps under pressure from criminal elements there, might intentionally limit the use of the equipment so that drugs or other contraband could still flow through the country’s ports on the way to the United States.
Only by hiring the unnamed private contractor, the e-mail said, could the United States be assured that port security in the Dominican Republic would be enhanced
Well, that’s subtle.
This, coupled with then-Congressman Menendez’s rant about prostitution flourishing in Cuba, just adds to this spectacle. While this article detailed more malfeasance from Menendez, there was no mentioning of his alleged dalliances with Dominican prostitutes. Yes, the women who made the allegations have vanished, but that doesn’t mean the story is dead. The FBI is still investigating.
Manuel Roig-Franzia of the Washington Post reported earlier this month that Casa de Campo, an exclusive Dominican resort, is the epicenter of these prostitution allegations. While the guards at the resort turn away anyone they feel is a prostitute, Roig-Franzia wrote that:
the prostitutes talk of occasionally being secreted into Casa de Campo in the back seats of chauffeur-driven SUVs with tinted windows, gliding into the complex past a large, thatched-roof security checkpoint after the swipe of a card opens the gate. A 27-year-old prostitute recalled a four-day job at a Casa de Campo villa for which she collected $500 a night instead of her regular $170. She shed her usual plunging necklines and lacy peek-a-boo tights in favor of more subdued dresses. “I looked very respectable,” she said.
Senator Menendez slithered out on the filth of the Hudson County Democratic machine. As Ed Morrissey wrote on Hot Air today, these events hopefully give Democrats reason to do some early spring cleaning within their ranks.
If in fact Menendez was entirely interested in the best possible port security for the DR and the US, why wouldn’t he have declared his conflict of interest in the matter and asked another member of the Foreign Relations Committee to handle the issue? It might have caused a little angst among Democrats, and perhaps shaved a percentage point off of his double-digit election win in November, but it would have ensured that port security was the motivation and the result of the conflict.
Instead, it’s pretty clear that Menendez was intervening to the point of interfering with drug interdiction in order to pressure the DR to do business with his contributor. And if that’s the case, the Senate Ethics Committee is going to have its options limited when it has to determine what to do with Menendez. With the New York Times now breaking these kinds of “details,” albeit with porridge-like headlines, the pressure will be on Democrats to clean their own house.