Scandals are nothing new to politics and quid pro quos seem to be the most common on the hill.
The latest Democrat involved in a quid pro quo scheme involves Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and it’s been going on for almost 11 years, according to CNN. The prosecution has pointed to emails, flight records, and hotel bills as evidence of luxurious vacations used as bribes to obtain the Senator’s favors.
The trial involves Senator Menendez and Salomon Melgen, an ophthalmologist from Florida. Both have been charged with 18 counts of fraud and bribery over since 2006, and both have pled not guilty to the charges.
According to prosecutors, the lavish vacations for Menendez, paid for by Melgen, started after Menendez was elected Senator in 2006. It began a “pattern of treating Menendez to weekend and week-long getaways in the Dominican Republic that would continue for the next several years.”
Melgen allowed Menendez to use his private jet, stay at his villa in Casa de Campo, book him in luxurious resorts, and a number of other travel related amenities that Menendez never accounted for in his annual financial disclosure forms.
Melgen also donated large sums to Menendez’s campaign coffers over the years. Prosecutors point to $770,000 donated to a number of funds in support of Menendez over a period of five months.
In exchange for the luxurious travel and sizable donations, Menendez wielded his political power and influence to assist Melgen in various matters. One example was a Dominican-based company Melgen owned that ran into disputes with the local government to install and operate x-ray equipment.
Melgen sought Menendez for assistance who, prosecutors say, “exerted substantial pressure on the State Department to intervene with the Dominican government to resolve the dispute in Melgen’s favor.”
Despite the nearly 20,000 pages of evidence against the two men, both are insisting upon their innocence. Some friends and allies to both men claim the lawsuit has nothing to do with any evidence, but is instead a political stunt to discredit Menendez, according to another CNN article.
Colleagues, such as Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), believe the lawsuit was filed after Menendez criticized Obama’s failed Iran deal. Cruz noted the coincidence, as the prosecution took place “in the very week when Bob Menendez showed incredible courage to speak up and call out President Obama for the damage that his policy was doing to our national security …”
He went on to say that it was the Democrats’ way of quieting the dissenter among their ranks. “It raises the suggestion to other Democrats that if you dare part from the Obama White House, that criminal prosecutions will be used potentially as a political weapon against you as well,” Cruz said.
The brief filed on Wednesday assures that politics have nothing to do with the case. “This case is about serious questions of fact and law related to the corruption of one of the highest elected offices in the United States government. It is not about anonymous tips, Cuba, Iran, party politics or the political consequences of a conviction. The question of whether the defendants engaged in a corrupt scheme cannot be answered by the defendants’ conspiracy theories,” the brief reads.
Whatever the case–be it politically motivated or coincidence–the fact remains that if Menendez is found guilty of engaging in bribery, it would be a major scandal that would undoubtedly end his political career. It would also change the delicate balance in the United States Senate.