Under-fire Menendez donor courted other top Democrats

WASHINGTON – New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez is trying to get back to business as usual – this afternoon he chairs a Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on counterterrorism.

But his friend and donor, the under-fire doctor Salomon Melgen, won’t go away.

Late Tuesday night Politico posted a story revealing that Melgen, along with courting Menendez and flying the New Jersey Democrat on his private plane, also provided a flight to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and cozied up for a picture with President Obama at a 2010 fundraiser for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which Menendez chaired at that time.

Reid, the Senate’s top Democrat, flew on Melgen’s plane June 18, 2012 for a political event in Boston, Politico reported. Majority PAC, a committee with close ties to Reid that helps Democratic candidates in the Senate, reimbursed Melgen $4,160 for the flight, according to Politico – and in compliance with campaign rules, Reid’s office told the publication. (One of Menendez’s problems is that he did not report or repay two 2010 flights on Melgen’s plane for more than two years).

Melgen donated $700,000 to Majority PAC last year, which in turn spent nearly $600,000 on Menendez’s campaign, even though the New Jersey senator had a huge lead and other Democrats were facing much tougher re-election battles elsewhere.

“There is no evidence that either Obama or Reid sought to aid Melgen inappropriately,” Politico wrote.

Donors at the 2010 fundraiser with Obama all got to pose with the president, according to the story.

Still, the story brings up more questions that are now spilling over to other Democrats, including Reid, who has been a staunch Menendez supporter. Even as more editorial boards call for Menendez to step down as chair of the foreign relations committee, Reid has stood up for Menendez and resisted.

Here’s a bet that he’ll face questions about the issue again soon.