In 2015, the senior senator of New Jersey, Robert “Bob” Menendez, was indicted over corruption charges involving conspiracy, bribery and honest services fraud. It was alleged that he failed to disclose receiving vacations, campaign contributions and legal donations worth hundreds of thousands of dollars from his longtime friend Salomon Melgen, M.D., in exchange for personal and business-related favors. Amid these allegations, Senator Menendez stepped down from his role on the Foreign Relations Committee. In 2017, Menendez and Melgen stood trial, and both were ultimately acquitted. These charges were subsequently dismissed at the start of 2018 after it was decided the case would not be retried, and later that year, Bob Menendez would go on to win his bid for reelection.
Now, in 2023, for the second time in less than ten years, Menendez, along with his wife, have been federally indicted over corruption charges for fraud, bribery and extortion, while serving in the U.S. Senate. Again, it is alleged that Menendez received hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes, this time from Wael Hana, Jose Uribe and Fred Daibes, to curry favor for them personally as well as for the Egyptian government to which they have ties. The Menendez residence was searched, and it has been detailed that cash, gold and a luxury vehicle were found. Additionally, it is alleged that Menedez has received payment for what is described as a “low-or-no-show job” and mortgage payments on his home. Menendez has once again stepped down from the Foreign Relations Committee, which is especially relevant this time due to the three New Jersey associate/businessmen co-defendants’ ties to a foreign government.
Menendez has maintained that these allegations are false, stating, “…[The prosecutors] have misrepresented the normal work of a congressional office…” Menendez has gone further to refute the allegations, claiming that he was withdrawing thousands of dollars from his personal savings because of “the history of [his] family facing confiscation in Cuba,” which was a concern under Communist rule. Interestingly, however, records indicate the Menendez family immigrated to the United States in 1953, six years before Castro’s Communist government took control in 1959. Additionally, Menendez has yet to provide any documentation proving that the amount of cash and gold found in his home aligns with the withdrawals he made from his savings. However, in support of Menendez’s claim of innocence, it is still possible he could be sitting on exculpatory evidence until he makes an appearance in court, which is set for May 6, 2024, as Menendez finished his statement by remarking, “I look forward to addressing other issues at trial.”
Many students at Muhlenberg come from New Jersey and are represented by Menendez. Student Sasha Dzhanibekova ‘27 of Flemington, N.J. shared her thoughts on the allegations levied against Menendez, stating, “It’s incredibly unfortunate to learn that someone who is supposed to be a dependable politician accepts bribes. He got caught, too, which is so embarrassing for him.”
But it’s not only New Jersey residents expressing disapproval. However, some students are not aware of Menendez’s actions and immoral duties. Sarah Wedeking ‘24, another New Jersey resident, mentioned, “I didn’t know about the senator and it shows how I really need to be educated more on New Jersey politics.” There has been nonpartisan criticism of Menendez’s actions. Some members from Menendez’s own party, including Pennsylvania Democratic Senator John Fetterman and Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (CA-11), have called for Menedez’s resignation. But, at the same time, other prominent politicians, such as Senator Chuck Schumer, have declined to join these demands. Thus far, Menendez has rejected these resignation requests and is still expected to run for reelection in 2024, the primary for which is under a month after his current trial date.