Senator Bob Menendez’s Friends Are Making Him Look Shady [Updated]

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Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez easily won reelection in November despite a last-minute, right-wing attempt to bring him down. Most people just chuckled when Tucker Carlson's the Daily Caller floated a big exclusive — right after Hurricane Sandy — and then proceeded to call the Senator "Latin Lover" for allegedly, maybe, possibly paying for sex in the Dominican Republic (he's not married and it's legal there). But the issue isn't going away yet, and it's not the only questionable association lingering in the Menendez universe.

The Miami Herald reports today that the FBI raided a Florida office belonging to a huge Menendez donor, the very same man who supposedly flew the senator to the Dominican Republic and hooked him up with prostitutes. It's not the best timing for Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as he and the Gang of Eight are preparing their plan on immigration reform.

"I'm not going to respond to the fallacious allegations of your story," Menendez told the Daily Caller. Harry Reid backed him up: "Always consider the source. All anyone here has to look at is the source where this comes from."

But the raid coincides with a guilty plea by a New Jersey man who admitted yesterday to making more than $20,000 in illegal donations to Menendez from 2005 to 2008. "Senator Menendez's campaign, a victim of the fraud that ensued, cooperated fully with the investigation," said his former campaign manager. "After the first guilty plea was entered, Sen. Menendez donated the campaign contributions in question to two charities … At that point, Senator Menendez considered the matter, as far as he was concerned, closed."

The bumps are compounded by yet another recent Menendez mini-scandal, in which an unpaid intern in his office was found to be an undocumented immigrant and registered sex offender, but wasn't arrested until after the election. (Homeland Security said it was "categorically false" that the arrest was delayed for political purposes.) Up to this point, none of it has touched Menendez, but you know what they say about keeping certain company.

Update: Menendez denies:

[Dr. Salomon Melgen] has been a friend and political supporter of Senator Menendez for many years. Senator Menendez has traveled on Dr. Melgen's plane on three occasions, all of which have been paid for and reported appropriately," said a spokesman for the senator.

"Any allegations of engaging with prostitutes are manufactured by a politically-motivated right-wing blog and are false."