In response to several news stories and allegations surrounding Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) issued a statement today to “urge news outlets to report facts, not innuendo,” saying that it “stands with New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez as some in the ‘news’ media use unsubstantiated allegations to smear him. The Senator has devoted his life to serving the public and deserves to be judged based on facts, not hearsay.”
“Senator Menendez has earned, through an entire career of public service, the respect of our community and the nation. He has been a true champion for both Latinos and non-Latinos on a host of issues and has worked tirelessly to protect and advance the well being of families in New Jersey and across the country. While the allegations are unfortunate, nobody is able to pass judgment until all of the facts come to light. However, it has come to my attention that some in the so-called ‘news’ media have taken this opportunity to assassinate the Senator’s character, using salacious innuendo in place of facts, while other important stories go untold. Surely the Senator, and the public, deserves better than that,” said Alex Nogales, President & CEO of NHMC.
We followed up with NHMC to get more clarification about the “so-called ‘news’ media” that Nogales’ quote was referring to, and NHMC told us that it was “conservative websites such as The Daily Caller and also Bill O’Reilly.” The Daily Caller was the first outlet to report about allegations of a sex scandal in November, but since the offices of Menendez friend and VOXXI founder/chairman Salomon Melgen were raided by the FBI last week, many national outlets, including NBC News, The Miami Herald, CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, have been exploring several angles of the story, including allegations of influence peddling by Menendez. Some parts of the story, however, have indeed bordered on the ridiculous, especially when Univision and The Miami Herald played a media battle of “Find the Dominican prostitute” a few days ago.
The attention of the Menendez-Melgen relationship has moved away from alleged stories of underage prostitutes and private jet trips to the Dominican Republic, and has begun to focus on Menendez’s actions regarding an overseas port contract that would have benefited Melgen, and now, as some outlets are reporting, one of Menendez’s former top aides. Here is what The New York Times reported:
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — It turns out that the lucrative port security contract pushed by Senator Robert Menendez would enrich more than just a major benefactor.
The contract could also benefit one of the senator’s former top aides, people connected to the deal said.
Mr. Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, has pushed United States government officials to help enforce a contract that a company owned in part by one of his major donors, Dr. Salomon E. Melgen, has with the Dominican government, which has refused to honor it.
A top executive at Dr. Melgen’s security company will be Pedro Pablo Permuy, a former national security adviser and senior legislative aide to Mr. Menendez, according to a cousin of Dr. Melgen. Mr. Permuy’s ties to the senator go back at least 20 years.
Mr. Permuy did not respond to requests for interviews on Monday, but said in an e-mail that he was neither a board member nor an employee of the border security company.
Even by Washington standards, Sen. Bob Menendez’s ties to a former aide, a South Florida donor and an overseas port deal that could benefit the two looks unusually cozy, ethics watchdogs say.
Menendez’s relationship with Dr. Salomon Melgen drew national scrutiny after federal agents last week raided the West Palm Beach eye clinic of Melgen, the senator’s longtime friend and donor.
Last year, as Melgen poured money into Menendez’s reelection efforts, the New Jersey Democrat advocated for a mammoth Dominican Republic port-security contract held by one of Melgen’s companies, called ICSSI.
A former Menendez aide, one-time Miami resident Pedro Pablo Permuy, is slated to be a top officer for ICSSI, Melgen’s cousin has said.
Permuy also runs a business advocacy group, the United States-Spain Council, which Menendez co-chairs. It’s supported by another Melgen company and a host of well-heeled special interests on Capitol Hill.
“This web of relations raises eyebrows,” said Meredith McGehee, policy director for the Washington-based nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center.
McGhee said it’s fairly typical for a former Congress member and aide to work closely together when both leave Congress.
“But what distinguishes this relationship is that the senator is still in office,” McGehee said. “And there’s not just one link. There are many: Menendez, the former staffer, the donor, the business and the nonprofit business group.”