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.(Continues)