The Senate Ethics Committee slapped the wrist of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) on Thursday in a Public Letter of Admonition.
Despite concluding in the letter that Menendez “knowingly and repeatedly accepted gifts of significant value from Dr. Melgen” and that he “failed to publicly disclose certain gifts as required by Senate Rule and federal law,” and that he used his “position as a Member of the Senate to advance Dr. Melgen’s personal and business interests” in violation of “Senate Rules, federal law, and applicable standards of conduct,” the Committee members let the senior Senator from New Jersey off the hook, virtually scot free.
The Committee did, however direct Menendez “to repay the fair market value of all impermissible gifts not already repaid.” The exact amount of how much those additional repayments will be is uncertain. In 2013 Menendez repaid Melgen $58,500 for two flights to the Dominican Republic Melgen had provided him in 2010.
Melgen, who benefited from Menendez’s assistance, was convicted on 67 felony counts of Medicare fraud in April, and faces up to 20 years in a federal prison.
In contrast, the powerful Sen. Menendez is apparently no longer in legal jeopardy for any of the conduct which the Senate Ethics Committee said was a violation of federal law.
The first trial of Menendez and Melgen on public corruption charges, held in a federal district court in his home state of New Jersey, ended in a mistrial in November.
In January, the presiding judge in that case acquitted Menendez and co-defendant Melgen on seven of the 18 felony charges. Later that month, the Department of Justice dropped the prosecution of the case against Menendez entirely.
Menendez is up for re-election in November.
After news that all charges against him had been dropped, his standing in the polls in his home state increased, but he still remains far below most incumbent senators in terms of home state approval.
The Public Letter of Admonition was signed by all six members of the Senate Ethics Committee: Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), Sen. James Risch(R-ID), Sen. Christopher Coons (D-DE), Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), and Sen Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).