Now comes a disturbing set of facts that call into question the court’s logic and conclusions about corruption. The April 1 indictment of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) on bribery charges alleges a chronology that should worry everyone who cares about integrity in national politics. According to the indictment, a wealthy Florida ophthalmologist, Salomon Melgen, who was seeking Mr. Menendez’s support on matters before the U.S. government, wrote two checks for $300,000 each in 2012 to the Senate Majority PAC, a super PAC devoted to supporting the election of Senate Democrats.
The donations were earmarked for use in the senator’s state of New Jersey. The senator was the only Democrat running for the Senate then in New Jersey. The doctor handed over one of the checks to a close friend of Mr. Menendez at the senator’s annual fundraiser. Is this what the court envisioned as “independent”?
The super PAC has said it acted within the law. It will be up to a jury to decide whether the doctor and the senator engaged in corruption. But the facts asserted in the indictment are sufficient to call into question the court’s underlying thinking in Citizens United. The court declared that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, “do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” The court added that there is “only scant evidence that independent expenditures even ingratiate.”