NYT: Menendez needs to step down from chairmanship while ethics probe proceeds

posted at 2:31 pm on February 9, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Say, remember when Bob Menendez’ problems were just the ravings of “right-wing blogs” that Harry Reid said couldn’t be trusted as sources? Good times, good times.  The stink has gotten bad enough from the revelations of interventions staged by Menendez on behalf of contributor-crony Salomon Melgen that a newspaper has called for Reid to sideline Menendez on the Foreign Relations Committee.  And not just a right-wing-bloggish kind of newspaper, either, but the New York Times.

In fact, they make it pretty clear that they don’t like Menendez much at all anyway:

Senator Robert Menendez was never a distinguished choice for chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the position he ascended to this month by virtue of seniority. Concerns about that quality gap have sharply escalated amid new disclosures about Mr. Menendez’s use of his position to advance the financial interests of a friend and big donor. Instead of trying to protect Mr. Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, needs to remove his gavel, at least pending credible resolution by the Senate Ethics Committee of the swirling accusations of misconduct.

In case you’re wondering, the Gray Lady never mentions the allegations of engaging prostitutes on his trips to the Dominican Republic with Melgen.  Instead, they’re more focused on the allegations that Menendez prostituted his office:

At issue are the curious dealings between Mr. Menendez and his close friend and benefactor Salomon Melgen, a wealthy Florida eye surgeon and major Democratic donor. The senator’s efforts to help Dr. Melgen, part-owner of a firm that had a long-dormant contract with the Dominican Republic to provide port security, revive that lucrative contract — deemed an exorbitant giveaway by business leaders and government officials there — were detailed in an article in The Times last week by Raymond Hernandez and Frances Robles. The contract’s dubious legitimacy and Dr. Melgen’s lack of experience in border security issues did not deter Mr. Menendez from pressing State and Commerce Department officials to insist that the contract be honored, including at a hearing in July of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee over which he presided. …

Mr. Menendez’s interventions on Dr. Melgen’s behalf were not limited to port security. The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that Mr. Menendez personally raised concerns with top federal health officials in 2009 and again in 2012 about the fairness of their finding that Dr. Melgen had overbilled the government $8.9 million for care provided at his eye clinic. The Post also reported that Dr. Melgen invoked the senator’s name repeatedly to exert pressure on federal fraud investigators.

Interestingly, the Times also calls out Reid, or at least a super-PAC started by his former aides:

Compounding the unseemliness, Senator Menendez’s help came as Dr. Melgen was in the process of making donations totaling $700,000 to Majority PAC, a Democratic “super PAC” set up by former aides to Mr. Reid. Majority PAC ended up shoveling $582,500 to Mr. Menendez’s 2012 re-election campaign.

Hmmm. That sounds a bit like a shot across Reid’s bow.  Will Reid consider this source a little more carefully?   When you’ve lost the New York Times ….

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