0, He escaped jail time last year, but Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) isn't entirely off scot-free: He just got a strong slap on the wrist from his peers in the Senate.
On Thursday, the bipartisan Senate Ethics Committee issued Menendez a “letter of admonition,” accusing the two-term senator of accepting gifts and private flights from a wealthy friend in exchange for doing the friend favors in Washington.
The indictment alleges that the men engaged in a quid pro quo since Menendez was first elected, detailing allegations that included the following:
Menendez took 19 free rides on Melgen's private jets to luxury resorts around the world, sometimes bringing guests.
Menendez helped three of Melgen's foreign-born girlfriends get visas to visit the United States.
Menendez tried to help Melgen settle an $8.9 million Medicare payment dispute, at one point asking then-Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) to help out.
Melgen made more than $600,000 in campaign donations to super PACs to get Menendez reelected in 2012.
Menendez reached out to top State Department officials to urge them to enforce a port security contract with the Dominican Republic that would benefit Melgen's company.
And this is the best that New Jersey has?
From 2006 to 2010, prosecutors say Menendez benefited mainly from Melgen footing the bill for his travel. Menendez took several flights to and from the Dominican Republic on Melgen's jet, used Melgen's Caribbean villa, and took his own hotel trip to Paris paid for with Melgen's credit card points. Menendez included none of this on his financial disclosure forms.
Reading through the indictment of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), I found myself struck by two key things. First off, the sheer extent to which Menendez used his office to help out his friend Dr. Salomon Melgen — a man who doesn't even live in the state he represents — is really something, regardless of the outcome of his case.
Second, much of Menendez's help for Melgen occurred before Citizens United v. FEC and other cases ushered in our age of unlimited campaign contributions. But in more recent years, Melgen's alleged help for Menendez found another outlet — one of those newly legal super PACs, into which he poured $600,000, earmarked for his good friend Bob.