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« overnight thread thingy (does it even matter what day it is) | Main | Top Headline Comments 2-1-13 »
January 31, 2013

F * R * I * E * N * D * $ :
Episode 1327, "The One Where Senator Bob Menendez Does Big Money Favors for His Big Money Donor 'Friend'"

Interesting piece, which I think should be read in full, even if you're not following the Menendez story.

It's a story about the very snuggly relationship between high-dollar donors and their politician "friends" and the favors these "friends" do for each other.

L to R: Guilty; Also Guilty

Just a little joke there, fellas. Just a joke. Protected as parody. Parodying the L to R identification in newspaper pictures with a deliberately risible rush to judgment.

So calm down.

The short version is that Melgen had bought a contract in the Dominican Republican giving him rights to deliver port-security services to that country; the contract was worth, it's said, up to $500 million. (Actually at another point the figure $50 million per year for 20 years is cited, which, by my math, is a cool billion with a b, daddyo.)

The Dominican Republic didn't want to honor the contract and Melgen dialed up his Very Good Friend Bob Menendez, who in turn called up some of his Friends at State, who in turn exerted their influence to make sure the contract was honored.

So all these Friends act together so that one of their Friends can cash a $500 million contract. (Or a billion.)

Melgen gives an awful lot of money to Democrats. He also throws some money to local (Florida) Republicans, including Mario Rubio and Ilena Ros-Lehtinen.

Earlier today ABCNews (which had the Menendez tip about the prostitutes last May and apparently did nothing with it) broke this related story:

Officials: Agents Raided Office of Menendez Friend After Document Shredding Truck Spotted

Federal agents raided the West Palm Beach eye clinic of a longtime friend and political supporter of Sen. Robert Menendez earlier this week after a document shredding truck was observed at the building, following attempts by FBI agents to question Dr. Salomon Melgen about his relationship with the New Jersey Democrat, according to federal officials familiar with the investigation.

The execution of the search warrant was carried out by a federal health care task force, with agents from both the FBI and the federal Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General's office, which had been investigating suspected Medicare fraud by Melgen's clinics for more than a year, the sources told ABC News.

Oh right, I forgot that: the good Friend Doctor Melgen's clinics were suspected of defrauding Medicare, too.

The raid appeared unrelated to recent allegations regarding Menendez's trips to Melgen's home in the Dominican Republic.

I highlight that because the raid, then, seems connected to this business about favor-trading.

And there's still more in the NYT story. Enter Harry Reid:

In the end, Mr. Menendez won [the 2012 NJ senate contest] with about 58 percent of the vote, partly because of the support he received from Majority PAC, a “super PAC” set up by former aides to Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader.

As the campaign entered its final weeks, the PAC poured $582,500 into New Jersey to support Mr. Menendez’s re-election effort. One of the organization’s biggest donors? Dr. Melgen’s company, which donated $700,000 between June and October.

There's a media angle, too: Melgen set up a Latino-news website, "Voxxi," which praised Menendez to the skies (and also agitated for this contract deal). A former employee says Melgen instructed him to replace positive coverage of Latino politicians like Rubio and instead praise Menendez.

And Menendez did more than just contact State officials behind-the-scenes, by phone. He also questioned State officials at Senate hearings, acting, essentially, as Melgen's mouthpiece:

And at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere last July, he questioned two administration officials — Francisco J. Sánchez, the undersecretary for international trade at the Commerce Department, and Matthew Rooney, the deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs for the State Department — about why the United States government had not been more aggressive on the issue. The senator said more security was needed given the drug trade on the island.

He does not seem to mention "Dr. Melgen is my 'Friend' who gives me tens of thousands of dollars (at a minimum)."

Now, doing favors for high-dollar donors is (or should be) a criminal violation. But in case you want to know about the underlying argument about the contract: There are claims on both sides. The Dominican government says the contract was gained by a one-sided process, and is essentially corrupt, and against its interests as a nation. Menendez and Melgen argue that this is about the Drug Trade and how Drug Smugglers just don't want Dr. Melgen going all Sonny Crocket on their lucrative Drug Business.

I can't hash that out and I doubt we'd ever have an answer there.

But we do know Menendez intervened on his Friend's behalf, making the US Government, effectively, his Friend's contract attorney.

One last thing: I thought this was in the Times article but now I don't see it. Perhaps I picked it up off Twitter. But the claim was made that the whole Underage Prostitute story was some kind of false claim made by Drug Dealers to get Menendez and Melgen out of the customs-inspection business.

I bring that up as it's an interesting defense -- which you may be hearing more about soon -- and also because maybe it would explain something that sparked my skepticism about the prostitute allegations (as I understand them; see My Caveat at post's end).

Update on My Caveat: @johnnyfriegas was kind enough to translate the emails for me, and they do not contain the second prostitute saying "I know I was underage because it was just before my birthday," which would have been suspicious because the other one says that true.

But she doesn't say that. She just says the first tryst occurred near her birthday.

So I'm less suspicious. Though also not going all-in on the claims of prostitutes.

Bonus Jokes: I felt like I owed Breitbart a picture joke too, so I did one for them.

Tasker asks...

They needed a shredding truck?

Oh I completely missed that.

Yeah. A truck.

People are noting these trucks are common enough. Fine, I mean, come on -- I did not imagine Megen scratch-built the world's first shredding truck. I assumed it was a hire, and a hire implies a regular commerce, and regular commerce implies commonness.

But still. Shredding truck.

While being watched by the FBI.

digg this
posted by Ace at 11:53 PM

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