The state’s senior U.S. Senator lost four in 10 Democratic primary votes in 2018, to largely unknown community newspaper publisher Lisa McCormick, despite his substantial advantages in campaign funding, institutional support, and media coverage.
Now, Senator Robert Menendez is again under the microscope of a federal investigation for taking gifts from a wealthy developer with business interests that rely on government assistance or accepting largess from the rich and powerful through his wife.
In a new report by The Washington Post, attention is once again focused on Menendez, who is facing a sprawling federal criminal investigation.
The investigation, led by federal prosecutors based in Manhattan, is examining whether Menendez received undisclosed gifts. The scope of the probe is unclear, but grand jury subpoenas have been issued to various individuals and organizations related to Menendez.
The investigation has raised concerns about Menendez’s political future as he plans to run for a fourth term in the 2024 election. Democrats are already facing the challenge of defending eight vulnerable seats to retain control of the Senate. Menendez, however, remains confident and insists that the investigation will amount to nothing.
The report sheds light on the connections between Menendez and various individuals and organizations under investigation. One of the key figures is Fred Daibes, a New Jersey developer and long-time friend of Menendez.
Daibes transformed the Hudson riverfront communities near Menendez’s hometown into a high-end residential area.
Prosecutors have issued subpoenas to Daibes, and documents related to a London-based investment firm that purchased an ownership interest in certain Daibes properties have also been sought.
Another focus of the investigation is Menendez’s wife, Nadine Arslanian, whom he married in 2020. Arslanian, an international business executive, has been connected to individuals involved in the halal meat industry and a New Jersey jeweler.
The investigation is examining whether gifts, including a Washington apartment and a Mercedes-Benz, were provided to Menendez or his wife in exchange for political favors.
Menendez has faced legal challenges before. In 2017, he stood trial on federal corruption charges, but the case ended with a deadlocked jury.
Despite the trial, Menendez won re-election in 2018 and regained the chairmanship of the Foreign Relations Committee when Democrats took control of the Senate in 2021.
As the new investigation unfolds, Menendez’s allies argue that he is being unfairly targeted by a Justice Department embarrassed by its previous failure to convict him.
On the other hand, critics see the renewed scrutiny as evidence of Menendez operating too close to the line of impropriety.
Menendez was never vindicated or exonerated for exchanging lavish gifts for trying to help a Florida doctor derail a criminal investigation into Medicare fraud, arrange for young women to enter the country, and pressure the Dominican Republic to give him a lucrative contract. He did not prove his innocence.
Although he beat back the government’s prosecution, won reelection, and used his political muscle to land his son a seat in the House of Representatives, Menendez has continued taking care of his financial benefactors, his family, and himself instead of serving the country, providing the utmost engagement to his constituents, and fulfilling his obligation to the voters that hired him.
The outcome of the investigation remains uncertain, although Menendez expresses confidence while his future hangs in the balance.
As he prepares for another re-election campaign, the senator says he is determined to overcome these legal challenges and once again Governor Phil Murphy and other leading figures in the political establishment have refused to exhibit common sense.
Hudson County is the smallest and most populated county in New Jersey but it is home to one of the state’s strongest Democratic political machines and an October 22, 1893, New York Times headline said it was, “Where Official Corruption Runs Riot and Is Not Concealed.“
From that realm came Robert Menendez.
Corruption and outright criminality are a part of the world in which Menendez operates. Menendez has faced allegations of ethical misconduct throughout his career.
Menendez was 28 years old in 1982 when he turned on his mentor William Musto, the mayor of Union City, and testified against him at the trial that would send the political boss to prison on corruption charges.
He got elected to the State Legislature on a 1987 slate headed by County Executive Robert Janiszewski, who pleaded guilty in 2002 to taking more than $100,000 in bribes.
His 2017 co-defendant, Dr. Salomon Melgen, was convicted of defrauding elderly Medicare patients but Menendez helped convince President Donald Trump to commute his prison sentence.
While Menendez has not been convicted of any crime, the Senate Ethics Committee conducted an investigation that confirmed the allegations against him and unanimously admonished the lawmaker for breaking the law.
Bribery is essentially no longer illegal as a result of a chain of Supreme Court rulings, but instead of correcting that injustice for the benefit of the country, Menendez has happily availed himself of the benefits of this “legal corruption.”
His 2018 Democratic primary challenger, Lisa McCormick, said Senator Menendez should have been fired for his failure to write a law that made his actions illegal. Almost six years later, he has still utterly failed to address this crucial need and deserves to be fired but until voters rise up to the responsibility of citizenship, the greedy politician seems to be content ignoring our needs while stuffing his pockets.