This indictment has been telegraphed for months, but the balloon has finally gone up, and New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez has been indicted on corruption charges:
Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey was indicted on bribery charges on Wednesday in what prosecutors said was a scheme to trade political favors for luxury vacations, golf outings, campaign donations and expensive flights.
The indictment, the first federal bribery charges against a sitting senator in a generation, puts Mr. Menendez’s political future in jeopardy. He faces a possible sentence of 15 years in prison for each of the eight bribery counts.
Mr. Menendez, a Democrat, angrily denied wrongdoing and vowed to fight the charges. “This is not how my career is going to end,” he said at a news conference in Newark, where supporters cheered him. “Today contradicts my public service career and my entire life.”
The federal investigation into Mr. Menendez, 61, was well known, and charges had been expected. But the accusations in the 68-page indictment are much broader and more severe than had been publicly known. The senator was also charged with conspiracy and making false statements.
The charges revolve around Mr. Menendez’s relationship with Dr. Salomon E. Melgen, a wealthy Florida eye surgeon and political benefactor. Dr. Melgen resisted entreaties by the Justice Department to testify against Mr. Menendez and was ultimately charged alongside him.
Prosecutors described Mr. Menendez’s offices on Capitol Hill as a hub of corrupt dealings, a place where the senator used his chief of staff to solicit gifts from Dr. Melgen, find out what he wanted in return and make sure it got done.
The indictment also reveals how the rise of super PACs, unleashed by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and subsequent legal changes, have opened a new channel for the wealthy to trade campaign cash for official favors.
Through his company, Vitreo-Retinal Consultants, Mr. Melgen directed $700,000 in corporate contributions to Majority PAC, a super PAC intended to help Democrats retain control of the Senate. Mr. Melgen instructed the group to use those contributions to aid Mr. Menendez’s 2012 re-election campaign.
Mr. Menendez is the first senator to face federal bribery charges since another New Jersey Democrat, Harrison A. Williams Jr., was indicted in 1980 as part of the federal corruption investigation known as Abscam. In 2002, an ethics scandal deterred Senator Robert G. Torricelli, Democrat of New Jersey, from a re-election bid.
Honestly, if Menendez leaves the Senate, I will shed no tears.
His thing is primarily foreign policy, he is the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, and he is almost as hawkish as McCain and Graham, which makes him a raving lunatic.