FEBRUARY 06, 2013
The Dominican hooker scandal involving New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez has turned into a tale of political corruption and cronyism that’s exposed how the lawmaker evidently abused his power to enrich a donor and one-time legislative aide.
As if hiring underage prostitutes in a third-world country weren’t bad enough for the new head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a mainstream newspaper reports that Menendez also took action as a legislator to benefit a top aide and the shady Dominican doctor pal who has filled his campaign coffers with big bucks.
According to the story, Menendez actually pushed the U.S. government to enforce the lucrative port security contract of a company operated by his former national security advisor and senior legislative aide (Pedro Permuy) and owned by the Dominican doctor friend (Salomon Melgen) under federal scrutiny.
The seedy plot has ties to the Dominican Republic, one of the senator’s favorite destinations. Last fall a conservative website published a piece in which two prostitutes offered alarming details about the senator and Melgen paying them for sex in the Dominican Republic. Melgen, an ophthalmologist, has a practice in south Florida and he’s a big political donor. He flew Menendez to his luxury Dominican estate in Casa de Campo on his private jet several times. After dodging the media for months, Menendez recently denied the hooker allegations as “smears.”
Last week the FBI raided Melgen’s south Florida office and spent two days confiscating boxes of files and records. Local news reports say Melgen owes Uncle Sam more than $11 million in unpaid taxes and he is being investigated for Medicare fraud. When the raid made headlines, Menendez frantically reimbursed his doctor pal $58,000 for the jaunts on his private jet, asserting that it was an “oversight” not to cut the check sooner.
The senator’s response to the security firm scandal is even more comical. Through a spokeswoman, Menendez claimed to have no knowledge of Permuy’s involvement with Melgen’s company until a reporter raised a question. So we’re supposed to believe that the senator had no idea that a close friend of 20 years, who served as a top aide and national security adviser, is a high-ranking executive in this company he’s pushing the government to help?
Permuy is politically connected in other ways. Besides working for Menendez as a senior legislative aide from 1993 to 1995, then as national security adviser from 2001 to 2003, he was assistant secretary of defense for inter-American affairs under Bill Clinton. He refused to comment for the story, but a Dominican official confirmed Permuy “will run the operations” of Melgen’s security company on the island.
This is hardly the first time Menendez is embroiled in illegal behavior. In fact, Judicial Watch has for years reported the recently reelected senator’s many transgressions. As far back as 2007 JW wrote about a federal grand jury investigation into Menendez, a former member of the U.S. House, illegally steering lobbying business to a girlfriend that also served as his chief of staff. The former aide/girlfriend built an unusually successful lobbying firm in a very short time after leaving Congress thanks to Menendez, according to news reports.
In 2010 Menendez and his colleague in corruption, New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg, allocated $8 million for a public walkway and park space adjacent to upscale, waterfront condos built by a developer that had donated generously to their political campaigns. The veteran legislators received about $100,000 in contributions from the developer, according to federal election records. In 2012 Judicial Watch put Menendez on its list of Washington’s “Ten Most Wanted Corrupt Politicians.”
JW is also investigating whether the Obama administration recently blocked the deportation of an illegal immigrant sex offender who worked for Menendez to dodge a scandal that could cost the politician reelection this past November. A national newswire broke the story of how the White House apparently protected Menendez from yet another public relations crisis by delaying the removal of the illegal immigrant from Peru with an expired visa (like the 9/11 hijackers) and a criminal record for sexual assault.
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