Pressure builds on Sen. Robert Menendez: Is it enough to topple him?
The New Jersey senator is accused of political favors, bribery, and prostitution. But those charges are difficult to prove, and experts say Menendez has the popularity to ride out the political storm.
Even as pressure on New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez (D) continues to mount over allegations of political favors, bribery, and prostitution, political analysts suggest the controversy, at this point, is unlikely to end the stalwart senator's 40-year political career.Skip to next paragraph
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Over the weekend, calls for Senator Menendez to resign his post as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee gained momentum, with a New York Times editorial pressing him “to relinquish his leadership role.” The Senate Ethics Committee is currently investigating allegations of his misconduct.
But with little public outcry against Menendez in his home state or among his Senate colleagues – and with allegations of political favors hard to prove – Menendez could survive if further allegations do not emerge.
“If what we know right now is all there is, I don’t think this is career ending," says Brigid Harrison, a political science professor at Montclair State University in Montclair, N.J., noting that Menedez was just reelected in November. "He has five years and ten months before re-election. That’s a really long time to rehabilitate your image.”
Under scrutiny is Menendez’s relationship with Salomon Melgen, a wealthy West Palm Beach eye doctor and Democratic contributor. Recent reports have suggested Menendez was providing political favors for Mr. Melgen in exchange for campaign support.
• Suspicion was first cast on Menendez after reports surfaced that the senator took two free round-trip flights aboard Melgen’s private jet for personal vacations at a luxury resort in the Dominican Republic in 2010. After news of the trips became widely known, Menendez acknowledged that he failed to report the trips – per Senate rules – and reimbursed Melgan $58,500 for the lift – almost three years later. (Some news organizations, including the conservative Daily Caller, have made allegations – all unconfirmed – that the senator hired prostitutes during those trips. Menendez has vehemently denied those allegations.)