Ethics Watch. Who is New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez
In this post we give you the quick facts on the charges that were filed and the result of those charges against Senator Menendez.
1. In 2015 Senator Robert Menendez was charged with eight counts of bribery, three counts of honest services fraud, one count of conspiracy, and one count of violating the Travel Act. Menendez was also charged with one count of making false statements.
2. Menendez accepted gifts from Dr. Salomon Melgen, a Florida eye doctor who has been convicted of Medicare-reimbursement fraud and faces up to 30 years in prison.
3. Menendez accepted numerous flights on a private jet, vacations in Paris and the Caribbean, and nearly $800,000 in campaign contributions from Dr. Melgen.
4. Dr. Melgen is not a constituent of Senator Menendez
5. Menendez lobbied to allow Dr. Melgen to keep nearly $9 million in fraudulent Medicare payments
Kathleen Sebelius, the former health and human services secretary, testified that she was pressed by Menendez to
reimburse the nearly $9 million in rejected Medicare billings for Dr. Melgen.
Dr. Louis Jacques, a former director of coverage and analysis for Medicare, testified that a Menendez staffer pressured him
to allow Dr. Melgen to divide single-dose vials of an eye drug to use on multiple patients. Dr. Melgen then billed Medicare
twice, billing the full $2,000 for each patient. Dr. Jacques testified that the Menendez staffer said: “The issue is very
important to the senator. Melgen is a personal friend, and bad medicine isn’t illegal. Medicare should pay these claims.”
6. Senator Menendez was acquitted after a mistrial. After nine weeks of testimony, the jury was deadlocked and as a result Judge Walls decided “there is no alternative but to declare a mistrial.”
7. Robert Menendez is seeking re-election this November.
The Arguments for his Defense
1. Menendez’s lawyers argued that the Justice Department violated his status under the “Speech or Debate Clause”, a constitutional prohibition barring lawmakers and aides from facing legal action over legitimate legislative activities.
2. Menendez challenged the definition of an “official act” based on the Supreme Court decision last year overturning the 2015 conviction of former Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia. That ruling made it more difficult to prove corruption cases against politicians in cases where there is no proof of an explicit agreement linking a campaign donation or gift to a vote or official action.
1. We are currently investigating the history of Judge William H. Walls to make sure he isn’t contributing to corruption with rulings in favor of contributors or politicians vs the public good.
2. We are also digging into the “Speech or Debate Clause”, what is considered a “legitimate legislative activity” and what an “official act” means as these were arguments made by the defense that led to the mistrial.
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Our sources for this piece were GovTrack and PACER U.S. Court Records.