One of the most significant public corruption trials is currently playing out. The ramifications for the Democrat Party are potentially far-reaching, as one of America’s top Democrat leaders has now been found to be involved.
The Washington Examiner reports former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) assisted Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ)–who faces bribery charges–in his efforts to secure favors for a Florida-based ophthalmologist who gave Menendez lavish gifts.
As CNN notes, Menendez and Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen have been charged with 18 counts of bribery. Melgen provided the New Jersey Senator with expensive vacations and hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations.
According to federal prosecutors, Menendez received bribes in exchange for helping Melgen reverse an unfavorable decision from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). He also attempted to resolve visa application processes for Melgen’s foreign-born girlfriends.
Surprisingly, in a brief filed with the US District Court for the District of New Jersey, the Department of Justice (DOJ) claimed that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid worked alongside Menendez to try to secure the favorable dealings for the wealthy Florida-based doctor.
Melgen was upset after CMS forced him to pay back $8.9 million for overbilling Medicare. Menendez employed the help of former-Senator Reid to pressure Obama administration officials into reversing the decision.
At Menendez’s behest, Reid contacted Obama’s deputy chief of staff in 2011, requesting that the official intervene. However, the deputy chief of staff refused, explaining that the case was an individual matter and not an issue of policy.
Reid then set-up a meeting at his Capitol Hill office between himself, Menendez, and then-Secretary of Health & Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius. Menendez personally pressured the Obama cabinet member to help Melgen. But Sebelius said she was “powerless” to help, a reply that frustrated the New Jersey Senator.
If the jury in Menendez’s case ultimately decides he is guilty, it would be one of the most scandalous bribery cases in modern American politics. Melgen paid for Menendez’s weekend and week-long getaways to the Dominican Republic, covering the costs of his luxurious villa at Casa de Campo and even picking up the tab for amenities like polo.
On one occasion, Melgen allegedly paid for Menendez’s stay at the elite Park Hyatt Hotel in Paris, France. As The Washington Post reports, the senator would often fly out on Melgen’s private plane. These gifts were not acknowledged on Menendez’s financial disclosure forms, as should have been done under proper legal protocol.
In addition to the vacations, Melgen gave Menendez large campaign donations. Prosecutors allege Melgen donated $300,000 to Majority PAC on the same day Menendez met with the acting CMS administrator.
With a growing mountain of evidence against Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), it is becoming hard to believe that justice won’t prevail in the name of the American people. Would a Menendez conviction scar the Democrat Party?
In total, Melgen donated $600,000 to Majority PAC–and earmarked the donations so they would specifically go to New Jersey Democrats. Apparently, the intention was for the funds to support Menendez’s campaign.
As The Hill notes, Menendez requested the court delay his trial when there are Senate votes requiring his presence. But the federal judge blocked the request.
This scandal could mar the Democrat Party with a long-lasting legacy of corruption, a legacy made legitimate by the many scandals lashed to its brand.