Sen. Robert Menendez Under Fire For Aiding Donor in Dispute

For all the speculation lately about whether he has been involved with underage prostitutes, New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez may get in trouble for, essentially, being an overage prostitute. The Washington Post reports:

Sen. Robert Menendez raised concerns with top federal health-care officials twice in recent years about their finding that a Florida eye doctor — a close friend and major campaign donor — had overbilled the government by $8.9 million for care at his clinic, Menendez aides said Wednesday.

Menendez (D-N.J.) initially contacted federal officials in 2009 about the government’s audit of Salomon Melgen, complaining to the director overseeing Medicare payments that it was unfair to penalize the doctor because the billing rules were ambiguous, the aides said.

Menendez, who became chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this month, is under scrutiny because of his close relationship with Melgen. The doctor donated more than $700,000 last year to Menendez’s reelection campaign and other Senate Democrats. And when Melgen needed help with a port security contract in the Dominican Republic last year, Menendez urged U.S. officials to press the country to carry out the multimillion-dollar agreement.

Melgen is under investigation for healthcare fraud; Menendez is under increasing scrutiny for his relationship with Melgen, including a pair of free trips he took to visit Melgen’s home in the Dominican Republic. Menendez eventually paid for the trips, but not until they drew attention.