When New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez decided this month to reimburse–after two years–his campaign donor and longtime friend Dr. Salomon Melgen for two 2010 flights to the Dominican Republic on his private jet, he took a huge chunk out of his net worth to pay the bill.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Menendez’s net worth is between $317,005 and $680,000. Menendez ranks 79th in the Senate in that category, fairly low among his 99 colleagues.
Since the reimbursement he made to his donor Dr. Salomon Melgen’s company totaled $58,500, Menendez spent a massive portion of his financial livelihood on the reimbursement for those two flights. If his net worth is at the lowest end of the estimate–$316,005–he would have paid about 18.5 percent of his entire net worth.
If Menendez’s net worth is at the high end of that estimate–$680,000–then he would have spent about 8.6 percent of his net worth for the two flights.
Looking at Menendez’s annual salary–U.S. Senators make $174,000 per year before taxes–the $58,500 reimbursement would be almost 34 percent of Menendez’s annual salary before taxes.
Telling NBC News’ Michael Isikoff about the reimbursement check, Menendez’s chief of staff Dan O’Brien said “this was sloppy.”
“I’m chalking it up to an oversight,” O’Brien said.
Paul Brubaker, a Menendez spokesman based in New Jersey, told a local news reporter the reason why the Senator paid for these trips “out of his own pocket” and not through his official office or campaign accounts was so they did not have to be reported to official authorities.