By Justin Sink
A friend of and political donor to Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) is under investigation by the FBI, according to a report Wednesday in the Miami Herald.
According to the paper, FBI agents gathered at the medical office in West Palm Beach of Dr. Salomon Melgen, a contributor to Menendez and the owner of Casa de Campo, a luxury resort in the Dominican Republic. Melgen has on at least one occasion provided a private plane to allow Menendez to travel, and a spokeswoman has described the pair as longtime friends.
Unclear is whether the current FBI investigation is targeting Melgen for outstanding back taxes or unverified reports of providing improper benefits to Menendez.
But Melgen's name also surfaced in a report by the conservative website The Daily Caller, which published an interview in November with Dominican prostitutes who claimed to have met Menendez at his resort. The prostitutes said Menendez paid them for sex, but the New Jersey lawmaker's office has vehemently denied the accusations.
“Dr. Melgen has been a friend and political supporter of Senator Menendez for many years," Menendez's office said in a statement. "Senator Menendez has traveled on Dr. Melgen’s plane on three occasions, all of which have been paid for and reported appropriately. Any allegations of engaging with prostitutes are manufactured by a politically-motivated right-wing blog and are false.”
The Melgen family is a frequent financial contributor in Florida politics, having given money to prominent members of Congress, including Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D), Joe Garcia (D), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R).
-This post was updated at 2:28 p.m.