He’s a U.S. senator who’s no stranger to scandal and allegations, and a new investigation by the FBI is putting Robert Menendez’s name close to controversy yet again.
This time, FBI agents raided the office of a close friend and donor of Menendez, Dr. Salomon Melgen, an eye doctor in Miami with a reputation for a lavish lifestyle, including having a private jet.
It was on that jet that Sen. Menendez has flown with Melgen three times in the past, according to the senator’s office, which also said that Menendez reported the trips to Senate authorities. The two have gone to the Dominican Republic together, and some conservative bloggers claim they have evidence the senator hired prostitutes while in the Dominican Republic, and that some of the prostitutes were as young as sixteen.
The allegations are just that — they are not proven, and Menendez is no stranger to allegations.
“Everyone knew that the man was a little on the shady side when we elected him, and we’re sticking with him regardless,” said Dan Cassino, political science professor and director of experimental research at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Public Mind Research Institute.
In fact, the accusations of prostitution are just the latest in a recent list of alleged scandals in which Menendez’s name has come up. He’s had a major donor plead guilty to funneling at least $100,000 illegally to his campaign. Menendez gave the money to charity.
Also, earlier this month, a Menendez volunteer intern, who was an illegal immigrant and convicted sex offender, was deported, but not until after Menendez was re-elected. Now that the senator from North Jersey is in his federal legislative seat until 2018, his position is safe, thanks to New Jersey governor Chris Christie, a Republican.
“Not because Chris Christie likes Menendez at all,” Dr. Cassino told PIX11 News, “but rather because every Democrat knows that Christie would appoint a Republican to that senate seat.”
In other words, Democratic Party leaders are bolstering Menendez out of concern that if he were for any reason to lose his seat, the popular Governor Christie would replace him with a G.O.P. candidate.
Dr. Cassino also said that, barring Menendez actually being indicted in this latest controversy or some other, unforeseen scandal, voters are not likely to reject the second-term senator who’s widely expected to become chairman of the prominent Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Comments made by Menendez’s constituents to PIX11 bear out Dr. Cassino’s assessment. When asked if there was any reason not to vote for Menendez, North Bergen resident Nancy Newman’s response was “No, just a lack of knowledge.” She had not heard about Menendez being mentioned in connection to the prostitution scandal, but it did not seem to sway her support.
There was no question in the mind of John Meehan of North Bergen that he would continue to support Menendez regardless. Meehan said he was a registered Republican who has voted for Menendez consistently. “He’s a fantastic human being,” said Meehan. “He’s done a lot to help people in Hudson County.”
As for the senator himself, the response regarding the FBI raid Tuesday night at his close friend’s workplace came from Menendez’s own office.
“Any allegations of engaging with prostitutes are manufactured by a politically motivated right-wing blog and are false,” said Menendez press secretary Paul Brubaker in a written statement.
Brubaker was referring to The Daily Caller, a blog founded by conservative pundit Tucker Carlson, which first raised the allegations last month.