Donor in Menendez probe rubbed elbows with Obama, Reid

This Jan. 31, 2010, image released by Miami Dade College shows Dr. Salomon Melgen, posing for a photo at the book signing of "Growing American Roots", a book by Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., at the college in Miami. Phil Roche

Salomon Melgen, a top donor to Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., who has been ensnared in multiple investigations of his business dealings and political connections, also rubbed elbows with several other prominent Democratic politicians, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has flown on Melgen's plane, and President Obama, who attended a fundraiser Melgen co-hosted in 2010, Politico reports.

There is no evidence that either Mr. Obama or Reid sought to improperly aid Melgen, but the connections are further evidence that Melgen, a South Florida eye doctor and investor, operated in powerful company.

Melgen briefly hobnobbed with Mr. Obama at a 2010 fundraiser he co-hosted to benefit the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which was then helmed by Menendez. In a photograph obtained by Politico, the president is shown with his arm around Melgen at the event.

"Everybody gets a photo-op," Seema Sharma, who hosted the fundraiser at her home in the Washington suburbs, told Politico, "but the host committee just gets a few extra minutes to meet with the president."

Reid, for his part, was flown on Melgen's plane last summer, traveling from Washington to Boston and back again for a super PAC event benefiting Senate Democratic candidates. Reid's office confirmed the flights to Politico, explaining, "Sen. Reid took a flight that was in full compliance with FEC rules and fully paid for."

Menendez's relationship with Melgen has come under scrutiny in the wake of allegations that the New Jersey Democrat paid for prostitutes while vacationing at Melgen's home in the Dominican Republic. Since the allegations surfaced several months ago, three women have come forward saying they were given money to level the false prostitution accusations against Menendez. The senator has denied any wrongdoing, accusing political opponents of fabricating controversy to smear him.

Investigators are also probing whether Menendez pressured federal officials to expedite a port security contract that would have benefitted Melgen's business interests.

And a third investigation dealing with Melgen has also ensnared Menendez - after a ruling from the Department of Health and Human Services that Melgen improperly overbilled Medicare by $8.9 million, Menendez, according to his office, twice contacted top Medicare officials to raise concerns about the ruling.

  • Jake Miller