By Jessica Huseman
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) is in it deep these days. He’s juggling an ethics scandal involving the use of political influence to help a friend and benefactor, and accusations of seeking the services of underage prostitutes in the Dominican Republic. But even the newsiest of newshounds probably aren’t up to date on either.
A quick Google News search of “Robert Menendez” reveals sparse coverage. The Daily Caller, a conservative-leaning news organization, published a story early Monday morning. The latest (Newark) Star-Ledger article about Menendez doesn’t mention the scandals at all. The New York Times has a 4-day-old story, and most other articles dealing with either scandal are spotty and more than two weeks old.
The first scandal haunting Menendez involves a Dr. Salomon E. Melgen, a well-to-do Florida eye surgeon who had donated thousands to the senator’s campaign efforts since the 1990s. It begins with Menendez accepting two round-trip flights aboard Melgen’s personal jet for vacations to the Dominican Republic in 2010, which his aides have chalked up to an oversight. Then, last month, Menendez sent him a check for $60,000 — ostensibly to pay him back for the free travel.
Menendez also used his influence over American authorities to help Melgen recover a port security contract in the Dominican Republic that would have greatly benefited one of Melgen’s companies.
To top all of this off, he faces anonymous and, albeit largely unsubstantiated, accusations that he had sexual encounters with prostitutes in the Dominican Republican, at least one of whom was underage — though his office has refuted these as politically motivated.
Unfounded allegations regarding Dominican prostitutes aside, Menendez could face more scrutiny due to the Daily Caller article from Monday morning, which alleges that an escort well-known in D.C. circles “has identified a photo of Senator Bob Menendez as a man who paid her for sex.”
The scandal hill keeps getting steeper for Menendez. But where is the news coverage? A recent poll indicated that 60 percent of voters in New Jersey didn’t have any idea that Menendez was involved in any scandals at all — much less three at one time.
The relatively obvious idea that Republican sex and money scandals get wider-spread coverage in the media is one that I’ll choose not to mention, though I find it true. Instead, let’s focus on how this is a big deal regardless of party. Why aren’t his constituents being informed of this issue so that they can hold him accountable for his problems?
None of this is a new thing with Menendez, either.
Judicial Watch named him to their 2012 “Most Corrupt” list, noting that his spot in the top 10 could be considered a “lifetime achievement award.” The site notes scandals dating back to 2007 that include illegally steering lobbying business to his former chief of staff, to whom he was romantically linked; giving business to a contracting company that had donated thousands to his campaign; prostitution allegations dating back to last year; and employing an undocumented immigrant (who was also a registered sex offender) as an unpaid intern in his Senate office.
So, it’s not like the media didn’t have warning that more scandals wouldn’t crop up. It’s bothersome to me that in the lean coverage surrounding his current scandals, his previous scandals aren’t even mentioned — even though they both involve less-than-moral sexual encounters and illegal benefits to campaign donors.
Basically, the media is dropping the ball here. Menendez is able to maintain his persona as a good representative who has just been hit with scandals by political opposition looking to undermine his credibility. History tells us that isn’t true, and that his current scandals are, in all likelihood, a continuation of past bad behavior.