February 10, 2010
New Jersey Politics Goes National
Another Democratic Senator has an ethical slip.
Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, who sits on the Senate Banking Committee, is in the spotlight for a letter sent to the Federal Reserve Board last summer requesting approval for the rescue of a New Jersey-based bank. The problem is that the bank's chairman and vice-chairman, who stood to lose their investment if the bank went under, were significant donors to the Menendez political campaigns, and the Senator forgot to mention that in his letter.
The story was first reported by the Wall Street Journal:
Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey urged the Federal Reserve last July to approve an acquisition to save a struggling bank in his state. He didn't mention that the bank's chairman and vice chairman were big contributors to his political campaign.If the acquisition had been approved, it would have prevented the two executives from losing what was left of their investments in the bank.The Fed didn't act on the request from Mr. Menendez, a Democrat, and First BankAmericano, which was closely held, failed July 31......William Black, a federal bank regulator during the savings-and-loan crisis two decades ago, and like Mr. Menendez a Democrat, called the senator's letter "grotesquely inappropriate," given his ties to the two directors.
The New York Times and others later picked up the story, although it is not clear how far it will go, given that it is one of many corruption stories among the current roster of Democrats in Congress and in New Jersey politics.
Senator Menendez, is, however, the Chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and was already feeling the heat over the Coakley loss to Scott Brown and the failure of the Democratic campaign committee to realize early enough that their candidate was in trouble:
The absence at this critical juncture of the White House or the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, led by Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, strategists in both parties say, was a turning point that touched off a series of mistakes from which the Coakley campaign would never recover.
Menendez is the son of Cuban exiles from the Batista era, and as such he has, to his credit, maintained a strong position against opening trade and other links with the Castro regime, a position that has put him at odds with his fellow Democrats, but in line with Republican exiles from Cuba. Yet, despite that principled position, and despite the ravages of socialism that have affected his homeland for fifty years, Senator Menendez has stood lockstep in the Senate for the Obama agenda.
So don't hold your breath waiting for an ethics investigation on this one.