Menendez divorced his wife in 2005 (he was a congressman at the time), and that divorce may or may not have had something to do with an alleged affair with one of his employees, Kay LiCausi. The New York Times reports that after working in Menendez’s office, LiCausi became a lobbyist, and her alleged lover steered hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of contracts her way.
Chris Christie, at the time a federal prosecutor, helped spearhead a corruption investigation of Menendez in 2006. Rumor has it that Christie produced more than 200 witnesses for a grand jury, but no charges were pressed. “The question comes to mind, how many more investigations can this guy withstand?” wonders one Garden State insider. “It’s not like he is unfamiliar with our friends in the FBI.”
Menendez comes off as a bit of a bully. He’s been known to call his opponents’ donors and say, “This is Bob Menendez. Do we have a problem?” Adds another source: “He’s known for being very vindictive, very nasty, very tough. It’s common for folks to be afraid of not donating to him for fear of being subject to his wrath.”
He made headlines when one of his interns, a Peruvian sex offender, was arrested for being in the country illegally. The Associated Press reported that the Department of Homeland Security ordered federal agents to postpone the intern’s arrest until after Election Day.
There’s more, of course. The above list is but a glance.
If the prostitution to-do shakes out in his favor, Menendez’s career will be a textbook example of how to masterfully balance corruption and success. “Bob Menendez is like the Pig-Pen of New Jersey politics,” says another source, who has known the senator for years. “There’s always this cloud that just kind of follows him around.” That’s why his circle wasn’t shocked when allegations that he slept with prostitutes surfaced.
Menendez’s detractors also won’t be shocked if he weathers this latest unpleasantness and is reelected in six years. He may be in the headlines, but he remains safely ensconced in the Hudson County Democratic machine.
Menendez, for his part, calls the allegations a “smear.” He’s indignant about the investigations into his character. But his reputation has hardly been spotless.
— Betsy Woodruff is a William F. Buckley Fellow at the National Review Institute.