In January, Judicial Watch announced that Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) had made its list of Washington's "Ten Most Corrupt" politicians for 2012. And what were the senator's transgressions?
You can read his entry for yourself, but here's the Reader's Digest version: Senator Menendez was previously investigated for steering lobbying business to his former chief of staff (and girlfriend); he helped sneak an $8 million earmark for a public walkway and park that benefitted campaign donors and a former senior aide; and then late last year he was alleged to have patronized under-aged prostitutes and to have employed an illegal alien sex offender on his staff.
So is he a deserving member of our Ten Most Wanted? You bet. And that was BEFORE news hit this week of yet another influence peddling scandal (related to, of course, the sex scandal) involving the beleaguered New Jersey Democrat.
The Washington Post details the story:
Menendez (D-N.J.) initially contacted federal officials in 2009 about the government's audit of Salomon Melgen, complaining to the director overseeing Medicare payments that it was unfair to penalize the doctor because the billing rules were ambiguous, the aides said.
According to the Post, these are far from fresh allegations against Melgen. He has been under investigation by federal authorities and health care auditors multiple times over the last decade for allegations involving health care fraud.
(For a detailed account of how Melgen allegedly cheated the system, check out this New York Times summary, which tells the story in great detail.)
Of course Menendez claims he knew nothing about the controversy swirling around "his friend and political supporter" until Melgen's office and home were raided by authorities earlier this month - a claim that is nearly impossible to believe considering their close connection and Menendez's history.
Overall, the Post notes, Melgen donated $700,000 to Menendez's campaign and to other Democrat candidates - and that was just last year alone.
It appears Melgen's generosity was not limited to cash contributions. The Senate Ethics Committee is investigating two trips Menendez took on the doctor's private jet to his "seaside mansion" in the Dominican Republic. Menendez has already admitted he did not properly disclose these trips on his Senate Financial Disclosure forms and was forced to reimburse Melgen $58,500. (Menendez "came clean" only after the New Jersey Republican Party had filed a complaint, calling attention to the trips.)
It certainly appears this was a clear quid pro quo. Melgen filled Menendez's coffers and courted his support during expensive first class trips to the Dominican Republic and Menendez tried to help him out of a health care fraud scandal in return. And it will come as no surprise to students of Clinton corruption that Melgen is close to the Clinton machine.
But there is more to this story.
According to The New York Times Menendez also lobbied federal officials in yet another situation that would have benefitted Melgen financially. "Two years ago, Dr. Melgen bought an ownership interest in a company that had a long-dormant contract with the Dominican Republic to provide port security. Mr. Menendez, who is chairman of the Senate subcommittee that holds sway over the Dominican Republic, subsequently urged officials in the State and Commerce Departments to intervene so the contract would be enforced, at an estimated value of $500 million."
The Times also reports that "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."
The more threads you pull on all of this, the worse it looks for Menendez.
As it stands today, Menendez claims he's squeaky clean, the victim of "right wing bloggers." (Will liberals ever let go of the "vast right wing conspiracy" claim?) But we are beginning to see cracks in the foundation of support among Democrats as well. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid offered support for Menendez in public statements - but they were tepid at best: "I have confidence he did nothing wrong, but that's what investigations are all about," said Reid.
By the way, the Menendez scandal was not broken by the Big Media or by federal investigators: it all got rolling because of reporting by a young investigative journalist, Matthew Boyle, last year for The Daily Caller. Matt now writes for Breitbart.com and talked about this story at a Judicial Watch panel discussion earlier this year. I'm also proud to say that Matt is one of the stars of Judicial Watch's movie The District of Corruption, which will be widely available later this year.
In the meantime, Senator Menendez continues to take the lead on developing amnesty legislation for President Obama. This helps place into context why our system is so broken. Our nation's top legislators are corrupt, and yet they seek to take the lead on key rule of law issues, such as immigration. Our republican form of government is harmed when we have lawbreakers writing our laws.
Obama Overstepped Constitutional Authority, Federal Court Rules
A federal court issued a decision recently that has massive implications for some of Barack Obama's radical czars, who were installed into positions of power without the consent of the U.S. Senate as required by the Constitution. Score one for the "Separation of Powers" doctrine!
As reported by The Washington Post:
A unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit flatly rejected the Obama administration's rationale for appointing three members of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) while the Senate was on a holiday break.
Chief Judge David B. Sentelle sharply criticized the administration's interpretation of when recess appointments may be made, saying it would give the president "free rein to appoint his desired nominees at any time he pleases, whether that time be a weekend, lunch, or even when the Senate is in session and he is merely displeased with its inaction." He added, "This cannot be the law."
The Post notes that due to a number of other similar lawsuits winding their way through the courts, this case is likely to end up in the U.S. Supreme Court. But for now, the court has ruled that the appointments are illicit. You can review the full decision here.
The ruling is an extraordinary slap down of President Obama's power grab. Next time you hear a liberal tell you that President Obama is a moderate or "pragmatic," recall the appellate panel's analysis of Obama legal justification for appointing these czars without the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate - Obama's legal arguments "would demolish the checks and balances inherent in the advice-and-consent requirement."
And so, what is to happen with the dozens of decisions made by the NLRB over the last year, in which the three unlawful appointees participated? As I've noted in this space, President Obama has used the NLRB as a battering ram for Big Labor at the expense of the private sector and the rule of law. These decisions are now surely open to court challenge. In the meantime, Obama's pretenders at the NRLB will continue to make decisions despite the court ruling, which will only lead to more court challenges and constitutional crises.
The ruling most surely applies to the appointment of one of President Obama's most controversial czars, Richard Cordray, who heads up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Cordray, you may recall, succeeded Elizabeth Warren when she left to enter the Senate race in Massachusetts. He, like the NLRB appointees, was the recipient of an Obama "recess" appointment and is therefore serving unlawfully.
(President Obama resorted to abusing the recess appointment process to install Cordray because Senate Republicans objected to Cordray's penchant for anti-business zealotry. JW further noted at the time of the appointment that when Cordray served as Ohio Attorney General, he allowed Ohio state officials to rifle through the personal files of JW client Joe Wurzelbacher, a.k.a. "Joe the Plumber," without accountability. The three Ohio officials, reportedly Obama campaign supporters all - attempted to smear Joe for daring to question then-candidate Barack Obama on his tax policies during a campaign stop.)
So if the NLRB appointments were unlawful - and they were - so too was the Cordray appointment. And now all of the agency's decisions over the last year are cast into doubt: "The work of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau could also be in jeopardy because the law requires the agency to have a director in place before it can exercise its power to write regulations and enforce them," The Washington Post noted. Sure enough, we had already uncovered documents showing that Richard Cordray doubted the constitutionality of his own appointment!
Of course, this mess could have all been avoided if Obama simply followed his constitutional oath and issued his appointments with the "advice and consent" of the U.S. Senate.
But instead, pretending to be frustrated that his fanatical czars were being "blocked" by Senate Republicans, Obama acted unilaterally and beyond the powers given to him by the U.S. Constitution.
The Constitution allows the president to issue appointments when the U.S. Senate is in recess. But during the time that Obama made his NLRB and CFPB appointments, the Senate continued to hold pro-forma sessions. They were on a break, not a recess. Judge Sentelle summed it up nicely: Barack Obama does not have the power and authority to decide whether or not the Senate is in session.
Judicial Watch has been all over the president's unconstitutional appointments. We produced the most comprehensive review of all of the Obama administration's czars and have educated Americans on the president's abuses of power. We are thrilled that a court has seen past the president's schemes and has upheld a key constitutional provision for the balance of power.
Until next week...