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Report: Emails Show Sen. Menendez Focused On Port Security Contract

Emails between Sen. Robert Menendez's office and the Department of Homeland Security suggest that the New Jersey Democrat urged action that would help a company holding a port security contract in the Dominican Republic, The New York Times reported Monday.

The company is partly owned by Salomon Melgen, a friend and major campaign contributor to Menendez, who denies that his friendship with Melgen influenced his official action.

It was an FBI raid at Melgen's South Florida medical practice that set off a recent string of stories, including earlier pieces in the Times and The Washington Post detailing Menendez's efforts to help Melgen in a Medicare billing dispute.

Menendez last month repaid Melgen $58,500 for flights aboard his private jet. That check represented a big chunk of Menendez's liquid assets — he is among the poorest members of the Senate, with a net worth of as little as $200,000, according to his latest financial disclosure statement.

Menendez did not mention Melgen's company by name in the emails, the Times reports. But their net effect was to urge hiring of the private contractor as the best way to ensure port security, the newspaper said.

The Senate Ethics Committee is looking into Menendez; federal investigators from the Department of Health and Human Services are looking into Melgen.

The only good news for Menendez is this: He just won re-election, and won't have to face voters for another six years.

S.V. Dáte is the congressional editor on NPR's Washington Desk.

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Shirish Dáte is an editor on NPR's Washington Desk and the author of Jeb: America's Next Bush, based on his coverage of the Florida governor as Tallahassee bureau chief for the Palm Beach Post.