Looks like the Salomon Melgen/Robert Menendez scandal may go the full Jack Abramoff. Politico has a splashy report, complete with a look-what-we-found video, about the connections between Melgen and two other top Democrats — Harry Reid and Barack Obama. Melgen may have gotten a lot less for his money, however:
Salomon Melgen had a knack for going straight to the top.
He posed for pictures with President Barack Obama, flew Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on his private jet and sought advice on a port security deal from an ex-CIA agent who helped lead the hunt for Osama bin Laden, POLITICO has learned. …
Melgen briefly schmoozed Obama at a 2010 fundraiser Melgen co-hosted benefiting the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which Menendez chaired at the time. The president posed with his arm around Melgen in a photo obtained exclusively by POLITICO. …
Melgen flew Reid on his company’s private plane last summer to Boston and back for a Majority PAC event, Reid’s office confirmed to POLITICO.
Majority PAC, a super PAC closely linked to Reid that benefits Senate Democratic candidates, reported reimbursing Melgen’s ophthalmology company $4,160 for “travel” last summer. That filing does not specify who did the traveling, when it occurred or the destination, but Reid’s office said that payment was for Reid’s trip to Boston.
Ken Vogel tries passing this off as a “hey, the rich guy got suckered” story, except that he really didn’t. He found Bob Menendez that way, and nearly pulled off a multimillion-dollar contract to provide port security to the Dominican Republic thanks to Menendez’ interventions, even though Melgen is an eye doctor. Nor was that Menendez’ only intervention. The potential profits for Melgen in those interventions dwarfed that of his investments in Obama and Reid.
Besides, Vogel’s reading on this looks a little cramped. Neither Obama and Reid would have been in position to do much for Melgen directly. However, their friendship with Melgen would have given Menendez a lot more room to operate on Melgen’s behalf. If the heat started coming, a friendship with Reid especially would make it easier for Menendez to avoid it. Those efforts may not have been Melgen investing in other channels, but Melgen protecting his investment in the one channel that seemed to be paying off, almost literally.