The Washington Post reports that Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) tried two different times to dispute top federal health officials' findings that one of his major donors had overbilled Medicare by nearly $9 million. As we reported last week, the donor, Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen -- who's now under investigation by the FBI -- and his family have given more than $426,000 to federal candidates since 1992. The list of recipients includes Republicans and many Florida politicians, though Menendez is clearly the favorite.American Crossroads has set up a Menendez "resignation watch."
But all of those donations are just the tip of the iceberg -- Melgen's business, Vitero-Retinal Consultants also gave $700,000 to Majority PAC in 2012, the super PAC set up to support Senate Democrats. Majority PAC spent about $600,000 to back Menendez in his reelection race last fall.
And Center for Responsive Politics research has also found that Salomon and his wife, Flor, each donated $20,000 to the Fund to Uphold the Constitution, a legal defense fund that Menendez set up. The organization reported spending about $109,000 to pay law firm Perkins Coie for "campaign expenses" during the 2012 election cycle.
Menendez has been under attack for his relationship to Melgen since late October, when a conservative blog said the senator visited with prostitutes but didn't pay them during trips to the Dominican Republic that he took with Melgen. Menendez has denied the prostitution-related allegations but recently reimbursed the Florida doctor for flights on his private jet during those trips. Following the initial allegations, Menendez's legal defense fund reported paying more than $26,000 to Genova Burns, a New Jersey law firm that previously represented him in 2010 when a recall effort to unseat him was launched.
The Weekly Standard reports that Chris Christie would name an interim replacement if he should resign:
“If a vacancy shall happen in the representation of this State in the United States senate, it shall be filled at the general election next succeeding the happening thereof, unless such vacancy shall happen within 70 days next preceding such election, in which case it shall be filled by election at the second succeeding general election, unless the governor of this State shall deem it advisable to call a special election therefor, which he is authorized hereby to do,” New Jersey law reads. “The governor of this State may make a temporary appointment of a senator of the United States from this State whenever a vacancy shall occur by reason of any cause other than the expiration of the term; and such appointee shall serve as such senator until a special election or general election shall have been held pursuant to law and the Board of State Canvassers can deliver to his successor a certificate of election.”