New Jersey's reputation for political wrong-doing predates the Christie administration's futzing with bridge traffic. Last year, the politician under fire was Sen. Bob Menendez, accused — deservedly and not — of inappropriate behavior involving hookers, influence, and cash. On Thursday, new allegations against Menendez emerged.
The new allegations
Menendez, who has served in the U.S. Senate since 2006, is being investigated by the FBI for having perhaps intervened on behalf of two accused criminals from Ecuador in exchange for campaign contributions.
The details of the investigation are sketchy as outlined by NBC, but go something like this. William and Roberto Isaias of Ecuador were convicted by that country's government of embezzling millions of dollars from a bank that they ran as it collapsed. The two moved to the United States, but the country hasn't determined that the evidence of their guilt is substantial enough to warrant extradition back to Ecuador. Menendez has apparently written to the State Department and Department of Homeland Security on the brothers' behalf, arguing that they'd been targeted for political reasons. Relatives of the brothers gave $10,000 to Menendez and $100,000 to the Democratic party in 2012 — but there's no public evidence that a quid pro quo exists.
Which the senator's spokesperson was quick to point out to the Daily Beast. "Our office works each year with literally hundreds of individuals and families from across the country who are seeking help with the immigration process," Tricia Enright said to the outlet. "We review each and every request we receive, and if we feel any inquiry is appropriate, we make it." To BuzzFeed, Enright said that the office was "not aware of any inquiry" into the matter.
The existing scandal
That's different than the on-going investigation into a Florida ophthalmologist. At the beginning of 2013, news of an investigation into Menendez's relationship with Salomon Melgen broke. Melegen is under investigation by the government for allegedly overbilling Medicare to the tune of $8.9 million. Menendez intervened on his behalf as that investigation unfolded.
The relationship between the two goes beyond that. When Melgen decided to get into the port security business in the Dominican Republic, Menendez allegedly intervened to prevent Homeland Security from giving the country scanners that could be used to screen shipping containers arriving on the island — which would have hurt Melgen's business selling such devices to the Dominican government. As details of the relationship between the two emerged, Menendez reimbursed Melgen for flights to the Dominican Republic that the doctor had paid for.
The debunked attack
Speaking of those trips to the Dominican! The Daily Caller broke a story last year that Menendez had engaged in a little extracurricular activity while overseas, of the kind that involves giving money to prostitutes. But the women that spoke with the Daily Caller's Matt Boyle recanted their stories, saying they'd been paid to claim they slept with the senator. In fact, numerous outlets passed on the story before Boyle picked it up, considering the sources too unreliable.
The peripheral happenings
The Boyle story came out shortly before Menendez was handily reelected to the Senate in 2012. Right after Election Day, federal agents arrested an 18-year-old Peruvian who worked as an intern in Menendez' office for immigration violations. (He was also a registered sex offender.) The Department of Homeland Security apparently asked that the arrest be delayed until after the election, but that wasn't known to Menendez's staff.
There have been no charges filed against Menendez on any of these allegations. But it does serve as a reminder that, when you're talking about interesting New Jersey scandals, it's pretty easy to beat a traffic jam.