Should Menendez Resign?

On April 1st, New Jersey [mc_name name=’Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000639′ ] was indicted on 14 counts of corruption, bribery and fraud.  This indictment comes after a 2-year investigation by the Justice Department after allegations surfaced in 2012 that Menendez’ close association with a wealthy Miami doctor- Salomen Melgen- was suspicious.  In 2013 after it was revealed that Melgen paid over $15,000 for two trips by Menendez to the Dominican Republic, Menendez said it was an oversight these trips were not reported on his financial disclosure and he repaid the doctor.  Associated with those allegations was the charge that Menendez had paid for underage prostitutes while in the Dominican Republic although those charges silently went away.  The reason they went away is twofold.  First, no credible witnesses stepped forward and the supposed “smoking gun” hookers never materialized.  Second, there is evidence that these particular allegations were the work of the Cuban government to smear Menendez, who is staunch opponent of the Cuban dictatorship.

There are a few thoughts here on my part.  First, as “my” Senator, there is a lot to dislike about Menendez.  On several occasions I have written or e-mailed him about concerns of national interest.  He has responded with what basically passes as a request for a campaign donation.  By contrast, the fewer times I have written or e-mailed Corey Booker, I have received intelligent and seemingly personal responses acknowledging my concerns followed with an explanation of his stance.  Although he may disagree with me, Booker does not ask for money.  Also, being from New Jersey, it would not surprise me if Menendez was a sleazy politician.  After all, New Jersey politics is and politicians are steeped in sleaze.  Simply put, I am no fan of Menendez.

Second, one would be remiss in commenting on this story if one did not notice the timing of this indictment.  The charges were not going anywhere.  But it does seem strange that on the verge of a nuclear deal with Iran, the government would announce an indictment against a very vocal and powerful critic of that deal.  Throw in the fact that Menendez is also a staunch critic of the administration’s new approach towards Cuba and there is certainly an air of suspicion here.  As a result, Menendez stepped down as the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is replaced by Ben Cardin, a greater ally of the Obama foreign policy than Menendez.  It would not be the first time this administration used the bureaucracy against a real or perceived “enemy” or opponent.  And there will certainly be no smoking gun directly linking Obama to an indictment of a senator from New Jersey with whom he has foreign policy differences.  That is not how the Chief Executive operates.  Instead, he leaves it to his lackeys to do the dirty work.

But probably the one thing that is coming out of this scandal is the Left’s tendency to lay the blame at the feet of the Supreme Court vis-a-vis its Citizens United  decision.  If anything, should this be a case of actual corruption, it illustrates that the system works.  In essence, the two campaign contributions would be bribes in exchange for preferential treatment.  However, because this may have happened is no reason to indict the entire system and trample on the constitutional rights of campaign contributors who do not seek special favors or preferential treatment.  Furthermore, Citizens United dealt with independent expenditures, not contributions to political action committees.

Whether in the form of a campaign contribution or the the older method of slipping an envelope with cash to a politician, that is an actual crime- bribery.  The jury will have to decide if there exists the elements of a bribe here, although it appears that may be the case at this juncture.   But let’s consider if there were these great campaign spending laws that the Left advocates.  Would that have stopped the doctor from seeking help from Menendez?  His relationship with Menendez predates his contributions to political action committees supportive of Menendez, or direct contributions to any Menendez campaign itself.  That is the conundrum- if I am a lifelong friend of someone who becomes a high ranking politician and I have wealth, of course I would contribute to that politician.  But, that relationship crosses the line from friendship into the borderline area of bribery when I use that friendship for influence, or I use that contribution for the same purposes.  Was the reason for the $600,000 in contributions just to gain influence and to, in effect, call in a marker?  That is for the jury to decide and everyone, including a sleazy politician from New Jersey, deserves their day in court.  What may be the downfall of Menendez is the fact that these contributions to the Senate Majority PAC were specifically earmarked for Menendez for a race he little chance of losing.  That should raise some red flags.  Regardless, the PAC in question is filled with former aids to and operatives for [mc_name name=’Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000146′ ].  Hence, this scandal may reach that scumbag which makes one question why now Reid has decided to retire at the end of this term.  It also makes this writer believe that perhaps his exercise bands did not attack him and something else may have happened.

However, to use this incident to suggest the need for campaign spending limits or stiffer laws serves no one except the self-righteous boobs on the Left.  They may think this is their big “Aha! Gotcha” moment. but they are just deluding themselves.  If a crime was committed, Menendez will pay the price, but like the Left often advocates, let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water.