Senator Robert Menendez, (D-N.J.), was indicted on 13 counts of corruption—including eight counts of bribery—on Wednesday, with federal prosecutors alleging he used his position to do favors for a South Florida ophthalmologist who was also a longtime campaign donor.
Menendez allegedly helped out the doctor, Salomon Melgen, in contesting Medicare charges and "in a bid ... to secure a port security contract in the Dominican Republic," the Washington Post reported. Menendez is the ranking Democratic member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Melgen in 2012 received the most Medicare reimbursements of any doctor in America.
The senator denies he helped Melgen in exchange for gifts, and maintains anything he got from the doctor was a result of their decades-long personal friendship, not a corrupt quid pro quo arrangement.
Melgen flew Menendez to the Dominican Republic several times on his private jet, costs the Senator initially didn't reimburse. He later paid Melgen nearly $60,000 for the cost of two flights, and $11,000 for a 2011 flight from Florida to New Jersey, the AP reported.
"Everyone knows he and his family, and me and my family, have been real friends for more than two decades," Menendez said in a statement last Friday. "We celebrate holidays together, have been there for family weddings and funerals, and have given each other birthday, holiday, and wedding presents — just as friends do."
The D.O.J. finally filed charges Wednesday, during a two-week Senate recess, after a multi-year investigation. As The New York Times notes, Menendez is the first senator to be indicted on federal bribery charges since Harrison A. Williams Jr., another Democrat from New Jersey, in 1980.
Menendez won't step down during his trial, he said, and according to the Washington Post, Senate Democrats have no rule requiring him to do so.
[Photo: AP Images]