The Senate Ethics Committee has “severely admonished” Sen. Robert Menendez for improperly accepting gifts from South Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen.
In a letter, the Ethics panel directed the Democrat from New Jersey to pay for all improper gifts that have not already been reimbursed. The panel of three Democrats and three Republicans noted that some reimbursement had already been made.
“The Committee, however, has determined that such repayment does not erase the violation, given both the lapse of time between acceptance and repayment, and the circumstances that prompted your repayment,” the Ethics Committee wrote.
Led by Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia and Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, the Ethics Committee explained in a formal, four-page public letter of admonition dated Thursday that Menendez had not adhered to the Senate’s ethics rules in his relationship with Melgen, a long-time friend and campaign donor.
“You demonstrated disregard for these standards by placing your Senate office in Dr. Melgen’s service at the same time you repeatedly accepted gifts of significant value from him. Your assistance to Dr. Melgen under these circumstances demonstrated poor judgment, and it risked undermining the public’s confidence in the Senate,” the Ethics Committee members wrote. “As such, your actions reflected discredit upon the Senate.”
They did not suggest an additional Senate sanction that might involve action on the Senate floor, however.
The letter noted that while Menendez had earlier been cleared of federal corruption charges by a federal court in New Jersey, the Senate operates by its own standards.
“The Committee considered the fact that your criminal trial did not result in a conviction. The criminal system, however, neither enforces nor supplants the Senate’s rules or standards of conduct, and the Committee’s action stands independent from that result,” they wrote.
Watch: Here’s How Three Ratings Changes Could Help Democrats in Their Quest For Senate Majority