Corruption charges for New Jersey Senator Menendez one step closer

Corruption charges against New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez are pending today as the US Justice Department prepares charges.

It’s alleged that the Democratic senator used his political office to push business interests in exchange for gifts and generous donations for various committees the senator is associated with.

Menendez’s case stems from his relationship with Florida ophthalmologist, Salomon Melgen, who the senator refers to as a friend and political supporter.

The investigation has focused primarily on several Dominican Republic trips Menendez took back in 2010. Citing his reason for failing to properly disclose the flights as an “oversight”, Menenedez abruptly paid Melgen back $58,000 for the plane trips. He continues to deny any wrongdoing with his ties to Melgen.

Menendez has become one of Obama’s most vocal Democratic opponents on two foreign policy matters – on the president’s effort to engage in direct nuclear negotiations with Iran and his decision to loosen the trade embargo with Cuba.

According to court documents, Medicare administrators have accused Melgen in the past of overbilling the US government’s healthcare program. Menendez advocated on Melgens’s behalf. Melgen remains among the top Medicare reimbursement recipients over the past few years.

US prosecutors are also investigating if Menendez committed a crime by advocating for Melegen’s business interest in Dominican Republic government contract. During that same time, the US Customs and Border Protection Agency were considering donating port screening equipment to the country. A move that would have hurt Melgen’s government contract.

Attorney General Eric Holder has signed off on a prosecuting request to proceed with criminal charges. Prosecutors are under pressure to proceed due to the statute of limitations on some of the allegations.

Menendez has referred to the criminal probe as a “smear campaign”.