A conservative group is calling on a Super PAC closely aligned with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to give back $700,000 it accepted in 2012 from Dr. Salomon Melgen, a close friend and major donor to Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ). Allegations that Menendez used his political office to financially benefit Melgen are at the center of a grand jury investigation that recent press reports say is expected to return a bill of indictment on corruption charges against the embattled Garden State senator within several weeks.
Now, Reid’s own actions to use his political influence for the benefit of Melgen have ensnared him in the same scandal.
“It is time for Harry Reid to return the $700,000 his Super PAC accepted from Salomon Melgen,” Phil Kerpen, president of American Commitment, a Washington, D.C.-based limited government advocacy group, said in a statement on Monday.
Melgen made three separate contributions to the Senate Majority PAC totaling $700,000. The donations came immediately before and after Reid set up an August 2012 meeting he attended between HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Menendez.
At the time of the meeting, Melgen had taken his ongoing dispute of an $8.9 million Medicare overbilling determination for work done in 2007 and 2008 up the administrative appeal chain within HHS. Having lost his appeal before an Administrative Law Judge in 2011, Melgen had appealed the determination to the Medicare Appeals Council, where the matter was pending in August 2012.
In an extraordinary display of raw political power, Reid summoned Sebelius to his offices where he allowed Menendez to make what must have been an extrajudicial pleading directly to Sebelius on his friend’s behalf.
“We must not accept this corruption from the Senate Minority Leader,” Kerpen said.
As Breitbart News reported, the attorney representing Melgen in the Medical Appeals Council proceeding, Alan Reider, a partner at the prestigious law firm of Arnold & Porter, exchanged numerous emails with Menendez legislative aide Michael Barnard immediately before and after the August 2, 2012 meeting. The timing suggests the possibility that Reider may well have provided Menendez (through Barnard) key factual details about the argument he was currently presenting to the Medical Affairs Council.
“Menendez has denied Melgen was even mentioned at this meeting,” as the American Commitment statement noted, “but Sebelius told federal investigators that she was invited to the meeting specifically to discuss Melgen.”
American Commitment recently launched a petition drive calling on Menendez to resign.
“Bob Menendez unethically, likely criminally, compromised his ability to represent the people of New Jersey,” Kerpen said.
“As the chairman, and now the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Menendez also endangered national security through these corrupt arrangements. Bob Menendez is entitled to his day in court, which he will have,” Kerpent stated.
“But he must resign now,” Kerpen added, “so that New Jersey can have a senator and America a ranking member who can represent constituents and the national interest free of an ongoing prosecution. And Harry Reid must immediately return the $700,000 from Melgen to begin separating himself from this corruption.”
Melgen lost his appeal to the Medical Appeals Council in June 2013. He appealed once more to the Federal District Court of Southern Florida in August 2013, but lost that appeal in September 2014.
In November 2014, he appealed that decision further to the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, where the matter is currently pending.
Melgen may face additional overbilling charges for the medical and accounting practices of his medical practice, Vitreo-Retinal Consultants of the Palm Beaches (Florida), between January 2009 and June 2013.
American Commitment is a Washington, D.C. based 501(c)(4) non-profit organization that “engages in critical public policy fights over the size and intrusiveness of government through direct advocacy, strategic policy analysis, and grassroots mobilization.”