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The top Republican on the U.S. Senate Ethics Committee said the panel is reviewing allegations that New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat, received improper gifts from a Florida doctor whose office was raided by the FBI this week.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation searched the West Palm Beach, Florida, office of Salomon Melgen, an eye doctor and longtime Menendez friend and donor, on Jan. 29. according to the Miami Herald.
Menendez, the new chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, wrote a $58,500 check Jan. 4 to reimburse Melgen for two 2010 trips the lawmaker took to the Dominican Republic on Melgen’s private jet, Menendez spokeswoman Tricia Enright said in an interview yesterday. Enright said the reimbursement came after a review of Menendez’s travel records and that the trips hadn’t been paid for earlier because of an oversight.
“We are aware of the news reports regarding the FBI raid on Dr. Melgen’s office,” Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson, the top Republican on the six-member Ethics Committee, said in a statement. “The Ethics Committee will follow its established procedures in this matter.”
The ethics panel opens a preliminary inquiry any time it receives “a complaint, allegation or information from virtually any source suggesting that a senator or staffer may have violated rules within the committee’s jurisdiction,” according to the panel’s website.
Menendez, who addressed New Jersey political and business leaders at a state Chamber of Commerce event in Washington on Jan. 31, refused to comment on the allegations when asked by reporters.
In a statement released Jan. 30, Menendez’s office said that all of his travel with Melgen had now “been paid for and reported appropriately.”
The 59-year-old Hoboken resident served 13 years in the House of Representatives before then-Governor Jon Corzine appointed him in January 2006 to fill the Senate seat Corzine vacated to become governor. Menendez then won a full term in November 2006, and was elected last year with 59 percent of the vote, defeating Republican Joseph Kyrillos.
Asked about the matter, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, told reporters Jan. 31 that Menendez was “a friend” and an “outstanding senator,” and referred questions to Menendez’s office.
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