U.S. Senator Bob Menendez was “severely admonished” by the Senate Ethics Committee today for accepting gifts from a close friend, Dr. Salomon Melgen, over a six-year span. He was ordered to repay those gifts.
The admonishment comes six months before the New Jersey Democrat faces voters in his bid for re-election to a third term and follows a 2017 trial that ended with a hung jury. Earlier this year, a federal judge dismissed the indictment against Menendez.
“The criminal system, however, neither enforces nor supplants the Senate’s rules or standards of conduct, and the Committee’s action stands independent from that result,” the admonishment said.
He is expected to face Republican Bob Hugin, a retired pharmaceutical company CEO who is self-funding his campaign.
“Both Democrats and Republicans that make up the Bipartisan Senate Ethics Committee have found that Senator Bob Menendez violated Federal law and ethics rules. He is an embarrassment to our state and it is time for him to resign,” Hugin said in a statement released tonight.
The ethics committee found that Menendez used his Senate office to help Melgen at the same time he accepted gifts from him, even though they were close personal friends.
“Your assistance to Dr. Melgen under these circumstances demonstrated poor judgment, and it risked undermining the public’s confidence in the Senate,” the admonishment letter said. “Senators must closely guard against even the appearance that their families or friends are entitled to use these resources and power for their own personal gain.”
In a statement released tonight, Menendez attorney Marc Elias said that he was “glad that this Ethics Committee process that began nearly six years ago is now finally resolved.”
“As those who followed the 11-week trial know, many of the findings in the letter were not only contradicted by the presiding judge and rejected by the jury, but the proceedings clearly demonstrated that there was no violation of any law,” Elias said. “This was further underscored when the Department of Justice dropped its baseless charges in January.”
Elias says that Menendez “acknowledged and made substantial payments for gifts” more than five years ago.
“We halted further remedial action, including, submitting amendments to his financial disclosure forms at the request of the Ethics Committee’s staff,” Elias said. “With the Ethics Committee process now concluded, Senator Menendez looks forward to continuing to serve the people of New Jersey.”
Republican State Chairman Doug Steinhardt has been slamming Menendez on ethic issues for months.
“In a time where Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on anything in Washington, they’re coming together to declare Bob Menendez a corrupt politician,” Steinhardt said.