Donor: Menendez and I are ‘like brothers,’ denies ethics charges

Salomon Melgen, the political donor at the center of ethics allegations involving Sen. Robert Menendez (D), is defending his relationship with the New Jersey lawmaker.

Melgen said he and the senator were “like brothers” in an interview with Bloomberg, and denied that he had used their relationship to illegally aid any of his businesses.

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“The senator and I have become like brothers, like friends,” said Melgen. “I talk to him weekly. I see him once a month. Not right now, since this whole thing has started. But we enjoy each other’s company. He could do great things for this country, especially as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

“I don’t have any business interests at all that have been helped by any politicians,” Melgen added, denying the ethics charges that have sparked a congressional probe and an FBI investigation.

Menendez faces accusations that he improperly aided Melgen’s businesses and the Senate Ethics Committee is investigating claims that he improperly flew to the Dominican Republic on the donor’s private plane.

Menendez is also facing accusations from the Daily Caller, a conservative website, that he consorted with prostitutes during those trips to the Caribbean with Melgen.

The New Jersey senator has steadfastly denied all accusations, calling them political “smears” fabricated by rivals seeking to tarnish his reputation.

Police sources in the Dominican Republic last month said that a lawyer had paid one of the women who claimed to have had sex with Menendez to lie about the encounter.

Reports last month said that a grand jury in Miami had issued subpoenas for Melgen’s financial records and was investigating his ties to Menendez.

Menendez has been accused of using his position to pressure federal officials to enforce an international port security contract that would have benefitted one of Melgen’s firms.

A report last month in The Washington Post also raised questions about whether Menendez had improperly intervened with federal officials to help settle a Medicare billing dispute for Melgen, who was accused of overbilling the agency.

In the interview, Melgen said he discussed the Medicare case and the issues with his port security firm with the senator, but denied any wrongdoing.

“I did not ask Senator Menendez or any public official to intervene in the pending overpayment case that I filed against CMS [Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services],” he told Bloomberg. “My representative and I have discussed the lack of clarity in Medicare billing rules and CMS’s contradictory guidance with several public officials, including Senator Menendez and his staff.”

Melgen said he had been unfairly presented in the media and was an honest businessman.

“They took away my dignity,” he said. “They portrayed me as a greedy guy who was with politicians for the quid pro quo.”