There is a lot of smoke rising from the area around Sen. Bob Menendez of NJ, the man designated by Sen. Harry Reid to be the next Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Is there fire underlying it? A recent op-ed from the NYT suggests that there might be an inferno.
Allegations are that Menedez engaged in sex with underage Dominican prostitutes and that he accepted expensive gifts, all of which are related to his relationship with Florida eye surgeon Salomon Melgen, a man whose interests Menendez inappropriately championed with our government. We of course do not know definitively at this point whether any or all of the allegations are true, but in a rather amazing turn of events, the NYT editorial board has tossed Menendez under the bus in an op-ed calling for him to be denied the chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And indeed, the op-ed looks like it could have been written by someone at the NRO:
. . . 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.
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.
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. Last week, F.B.I. agents raided Dr. Melgen’s offices in West Palm Beach and removed 30 boxes of documents and other material, but the focus of the inquiry is unclear. . . .
One suspects that there must be a lot of truth to the allegations for the NYT editorial board to toss a latino progressive Senator from a bluer than blue state under the bus. Normally, the left merely yawns and ignores it when one of their own engages in misconduct. I am left with the impression that the NYT is acting proactively here because they are convinced of the truth of the allegations and that the fallout from the scandal would be exponentially worse if it all comes out only after Menendez is appointed to a position of high power in the Senate democratic hierarchy.