The Senate Ethics Committee has “severely admonished” Robert Menendez, once again demonstrating its uselessness. Of course, the committee did not have the authority to put Menendez where he really belongs — in prison — but it could have recommended something of a little more consequence, like censure or expulsion.
Once again, the Senate has proven that it is the world’s most exclusive club, and membership has its privileges. The Ethics Committee — chaired by Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and consisting of three members of each party — probably never wanted to render judgment on Menendez and probably never thought they would have to.
The Senate investigation began in late 2012 but was put on hold when the Justice Department initiated a criminal probe. It resumed late last year when the criminal trial in New Jersey resulted in a hung jury. The Justice Department first declared that it would retry Menendez and then, stunningly, announced that it would not. Menendez was off the hook, and certainly knew that he had nothing to fear from his Senate colleagues.
Of course, the Ethics Committee does not enforce criminal statutes, but it certainly could have placed Menendez’ Senate Rules violations in their proper context. His actions were part of a larger scheme whereby Dr. Salomon Melgen, a Florida eye doctor, ripped off Medicare and shared some of the loot with Menendez who then did his best to make sure authorities stayed away from Melgen.
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