Sen. Bob Menendez’s (D-NJ) dirty political donations have contaminated the entire Democrat party, and possibly its hopes of retaining control of the Senate, following bribery charges for allegedly sharing information with Egypt in exchange for cash and gold bars.
Menendez, whom authorities indicted on three counts of conspiracy, was the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before stepping down after Friday’s indictment. The chair of the Foreign Relations Committee is a powerful position that commands political clout and the ability to raise and distribute coveted campaign donations throughout the Democrat caucus. From 2017 through 2022, Menendez’s campaign committee raised over $16.5 million and saved nearly $6 million as cash on hand, according to OpenSecrets based on FEC filings.
In the 2022 midterm cycle, Menendez’s campaign committee and leadership PAC expenditures totaled about $1.5 million. He spent about 16 percent of the money ($229,900) on contributions, OpenSecrets reported. Much of that money Menendez gave to Democrat Senate allies, some of whom plan to return it in one-hundred-dollar bills — a denomination Menendez allegedly stashed in his home totaling $500,000.
“We are in process of returning the money in envelopes stuffed with $100 bills,” Joe Calvello, a spokesperson for Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA), told the Messenger. Menendez gave Fetterman $5,000 towards his Senate campaign.
Fetterman is just one Democrat Senator who received political donations from Menendez’s PAC. Below are nine of the top Democrats who received money from Menendez’s campaign committee in the 2022 cycle, OpenSecrets reported:
- Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) — Maggie for New Hampshire $10,000, 6 Donations
- Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) — Kelly for Senate $10,000, 3 Donations
- Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-IL) — Tammy for Wisconsin $10,000, 4 Donations
- Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) — Wyden for Senate $10,000, 2 Donations
- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) — Gillibrand for Senate $10,000, 2 Donations
- Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) — Catherine Cortez Mastofor Senate $10,000, 3 Donations
- Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) — Alex Padilla for Senate $10,000, 2 Donations
- Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) — Bennet for Colorado $7,500, 3 Donations
- Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) — Warnock for Georgia $7,500, 2 Donations
Menendez is already in gear for the 2024 election cycle. According to campaign finance disclosures, Menendez’s New Millennium PAC gave Senate Democrats large donations, including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) $5,000, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) $10,000, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) $10,000, and Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) $5,000.
In addition to the individual campaigns, Menendez’s PAC gave money to Democrat organizations that donate to Democrat candidates. He gave 113 donations to ActBlue in the 2022 cycle, totaling $107,548, OpenSecrets reported. He also gave Fireside Campaigns 24 donations totaling $107,005.
While a few Democrat senators signaled they will return their donations from the embattled senator, some Democrats, many of whom accepted campaign cash, called on Tuesday for Menendez to step down.
“I’ve read the detailed charges against Senator Menendez and find them deeply disturbing. While he deserves a fair trial like every other American, I believe Senator Menendez should resign for the sake of the public’s faith in the U.S. Senate,” said Tester, who received campaign funds.
“The indictment spells out deeply troubling allegations against Senator Menendez that breach the American people’s trust and compromise his ability to effectively represent his constituents,” Baldwin, who also took Menendez’s campaign money, told reporters.
Correction: This article originally indicated Tammy Baldwin is from Illinois. It has been corrected to note that she is from Wisconsin.
Follow Wendell Husebø on Twitter @WendellHusebø. He is the author of Politics of Slave Morality.