Senate Ethics Committee closes inquiry into Sen. Robert Menendez

New Jersey Democrat was ordered to reimburse friend $112,418.22 for travel and accommodations

A federal corruption case against New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez ended in a mistrial in 2017. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
A federal corruption case against New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez ended in a mistrial in 2017. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted February 5, 2019 at 6:45pm

The Senate Ethics Committee has closed an inquiry into Sen. Robert Menendez over allegations that he used his official position to benefit his friend, a Florida eye doctor.

The panel ended its investigation after the New Jersey Democrat reimbursed his friend and political ally for $112,418.22 in travel and accommodations costs incurred between 2006 and 2010, according to a letter dated Feb. 1.

“Having already received documentation that all impermissible gifts have been repaid, the committee hereby considers this matter closed,” wrote panel chairman Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and ranking member Christopher Coons D-Del., in a letter to Menendez first obtained by NJ Advance Media.

The committee issued a four-page “public letter of admonition” to Menendez in April 2018 following a mistrial in the federal corruption case against him. The admonition included an order that Menendez to repay the gifts at a fair market value and amend his personal disclosures.

The judge in the federal case declared a mistrial in November 2017 after individually interviewing members of the jury after it deadlocked. Shortly after that, the Senate Ethics Committee issued a statement indicating it planned to resume its review of Menendez’s conduct.

The committee first opened a preliminary inquiry into alleged misconduct by Menendez in 2012. In early 2013, the panel deferred its inquiry while the Justice Department’s criminal investigation proceeded. The panel resumed its process in late 2017.

The admonishment was the first formal action taken by the committee in six years — a fact that has often led to criticism that doesn’t rigorously oversee senators’ conduct. Menendez’s letter of admonition was the only one — public or private — the panel issued in 2018.

The admonishment did not impede his political future. In November New Jersey voters re-elected him to a third term by a wide margin and he maintains his role as the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations panel.

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.Watch: Menendez Visits Hispanic State Parade for 40 Years Running

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