The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce hosted their 76th annual gathering at Washington, DC’s Wardman Marriott on Thursday night. Known as the “Walk To Washington,” the evening focused around the state’s disaster recovery efforts post-Super Storm Sandy.
Media listened intently to New Jersey’s popular Republican governor Chris Christie, who addressed attendees at the beginning of the dinner and left immediately thereafter. Reporters, who would ordinarily leave after a dinner headliner exited the building, remained through a plethora of speakers until the embattled Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) was done with his remarks.
As Menendez wrapped up his speech, a stream of reporters armed with notepads, recorders, and cameras dashed out of the ballroom hoping to catch the New Jersey Senator, who has remained elusive since allegations surfaced recently that he slept with underage prostitutes at wealthy American donor’s house in the Dominican Republic.
Menendez managed to evade the press as attendees–including business leaders, union representatives, and New Jersey lawmakers–exited the dinner to socialize at after parties and the hotel bar.
Although Menendez was already miles away from the hotel at that point, conversations about the Democratic Senator’s troubles were easy to find. One attendee said he believed Menendez would be out office in a matter of “weeks.”
Another said he never liked Menendez even before the alleged scandal first came to light back in November. One woman could not believe that Senator Menendez made no public disclosure of two trips to the Dominican Republic until recently, saying that a local school board could not get away with such an action.
Not everyone initially reacted with groans or sighs when Menendez’s name came up. Breitbart News spoke with Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), who said: “I know Bob Menendez to be a great senator–very thoughtful and we wish him well.”
Lautenberg told reporters earlier in the day, “If there are infractions as they are reported, it’s too bad.” Lautenberg clarified his statement saying, “It was a bad interpretation of ‘too bad’ because I meant it as a sympathetic challenge and it turns out that some people thought that what I was doing was giving him a word lesson.”
Congressman Donald Payne (D-NJ) also stuck around for after-dinner cocktails with attendees and told Breitbart News, “I think with the climate in the Senate and the Republicans pushing back on Democratic members, also former members of their caucus, like Senator Chuck Hagel, that this is just Republican bloggers that are just trying to cause trouble for a Senator.”
Payne went further, saying, “I think it’s interesting that the timing of this comes out the day that he becomes chairman of the foreign relations committee. I have confidence in Senator Menendez that these allegations are untrue.”