For years, Senator Bob Menendez has faced a steady stream of news reports suggesting that he was using his position inappropriately. Up to now, none of those had stuck—but it looks like the New Jersey Democrat's luck may have run out.
CNN broke the story Friday afternoon that federal prosecutors are close to charging Menendez with using the power of his office to assist a friend and donor's business interests, in exchange for gifts. The feds are homing in on Dr. Salomon Melgen, a Florida ophthalmologist who has given generously to Democrats and is the highest-billing doctor in the Medicare program nationwide.
Menendez has been accused of improperly taking flights on Melgen's plane, and in 2013 repaid $58,000 in flights from 2010. He has also been accused of intervening on behalf of the doctor when he was investigated for overbilling, and of inappropriately weighting the scales in favor of a contract in the Dominican Republic for a port-screening company Melgen owned. In December, The New York Times reported he had helped to get an immigration ban overturned for a wealthy Ecuadorean family that contributed to Democrats.
"He's always been skipping along, but had a lot of problems just nipping at this heels," said Brian Murphy, a professor at the City University of New York who tracks New Jersey politics. "It's not surprising it was this [Melgen] case, but there were five different things I can think of off the top of my head that if you were calling me saying Menendez was going to get indicted for this, I wouldn't be surprised."