Menendez Sets Off Ethical Alarm Bells
Back in June of 2005, Mike Hill pointed out the political shenanigans going on with the North Hudson Community Action Corporation as described in an article from the Hudson Reporter. The top jobs at the agency are high paying political plums - $185,000 plus.
The relationship between North Hudson Community Action Corporation and Menendez was a very cozy and lucrative one. Menendez collected over $300,000 in rent from the agency and more than $30,000 in political contributions from the non-profit’s employees. The agency even named the lobby in the agency's West New York headquarters the "Congressman Robert Menendez Pavilion" and honored Menendez as its "man of the year" In 2001.
The late CEO of the agency Michael Leggiero contributed $11,450 to Menendez campaigns and made only one other contribution to another candidate going as far back as the 1980 election cycle. Coincidentally, the agency’s other two top managers contributed to Menendez campaigns and only to his campaigns. Ann Dudsak and husband have shelled out $6,000 to Menendez since 2000 and Michael Shababb and wife contributed $3,000 to the Menendez’ senate campaign in 2006.
Now two state officials have filled a federal ethics complaint against Menendez for violating conflict-of-interest rules for collecting more than $300,000 from the agency for which he helped secure millions in federal dollars.
Craig Holman, an ethics analyst at Public Citizen, a left-leaning public-watchdog organization in Washington, said the lease deal breached House ethics rules.Menendez brushes off his relationship with the agency as business as usual:
"That is a violation of the ethics code of Congress," Holman said. "He [was] in a business relationship with this entity so he should not be taking any actions on their behalf. It does have the appearance of corruption.
Menendez said there was nothing inappropriate about his financial ties to the organization. He said he received clearance for the arrangement from the House ethics committee, though he did not obtain a written opinion.Passing “the Torch”:
Menendez's financial disclosure forms filed with the House Ethics Committee showed the rental income as required, though not the source.
The last time the committee took action against a senator following an investigation was in 2002, when New Jersey Democrat Robert Torricelli was accused of violating ethics rules by accepting gifts without disclosing them. The panel ultimately admonished Torricelli, and he dropped his re-election bid.“Does Menendez have an ethical alarm bell? If so, when does it go off?”
Update: Michael Shababb's contributions to Menendez were $3,000, not $2,000. We regret the typo, since corrected.
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