United States Senator Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) appeared yesterday publicly for the first time since allegations surfaced that he did not properly report and disclose trips to the Dominican Republic aboard a private jet owned by a Florida doctor currently under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
In addition to potential ethics violations, the website, The Daily Caller, reported that while on these trips to the Dominican Republic, with acknowledged friend and campaign donor, Dr. Salomon Melgen, Menendez allegedly engaged in sexual activity with underage prostitutes.
David Martosko and Charles C. Johnson of the conservative blog, The Daily Caller reported on Wednesday that "in a little-noticed email published online Wednesday by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a young Dominican woman wrote nine months ago that she slept with 59-year-old New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez at a series of sex parties organized by Dr. Salomon Melgen, a longtime Menendez campaign donor."
Menendez had not been seen in two days, but he resurfaced yesterday at an event sponsored by the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce.
According to Christopher Baxter of the Newark Star-Ledger, Menendez appeared last night at the chamber's annual "Walk to Washington" and spoke publicly before the group. He did not address the media-based charges leveled against him.
Baxter wrote, "after ducking reporters on Capitol Hill for the past two days, Menendez, who sat two seats to the left of Gov. Chris Christie earlier in the evening, spoke for about 10 minutes and then immediately left through double doors in the back of a banquet hall at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel . With two staffers at his side, he refused to answer a barrage of questions as he walked briskly to the back elevators."
On his program last night, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, conceded that the story was difficult for news organizations to run with. Last night, on The O'Reilly Factor program, the popular host said, "for those of us in the media who want to be responsible and fair it's a very tough story to cover and The Factor held it back for some time. But now, the story has advanced far beyond the rumor stage."
What O'Reilly was alluding to when he indicated that the story had moved beyond rumor, was the confirmed FBI raid on Dr. Melgen's West Palm Beach offices.
FBI agents had been seen at Melgen's office in the exclusive community on Florida's east coast on Tuesday night and Wednesday, but the bureau itself has not yet commented on the raid.
The Star-Ledger's Baxter also reported that, "Menendez traveled to the Dominican Republic on charter flights with Melgen three times in 2010. A spokesman said Wednesday the senator had personally paid $58,500 for two of the flights on Jan. 4 of this year. The third flight was paid by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which Menendez chaired at the time. The repayments came only after a New Jersey state Republican lawmaker asked the Senate ethics committee to look into Menendez’s travels. Some ethics experts said today the trips and late payments merit an investigation and might have violated Senate rules."
Menendez was re-elected to his second six-year term in the U.S. Senate this past November, and with the resignation of Massachusetts senator John Kerry, to become U.S. Secretary of State, Menendez has taken over chairmanship of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee.