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Robert Menendez (/mɛˈnɛndɛz/; born January 1, 1954) is an American politician serving as the senior United States Senator from New Jersey, a seat he has held since 2006. A member of the Democratic Party, he was first appointed to the U.S. Senate by Governor Jon Corzine, and was later elected Chair of the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in January 2013. He stepped down from that post in April 2015 upon being indicted on federal corruption charges.

Bob Menendez
Robert Menendez official Senate portrait.jpg
United States Senator
from New Jersey
Assumed office
January 17, 2006
Serving with Cory Booker
Preceded byJon Corzine
Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Assumed office
February 6, 2018
Preceded byBen Cardin
In office
January 3, 2015 – April 2, 2015
Preceded byJohn Kerry
Succeeded byBen Cardin
Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
In office
February 1, 2013 – January 3, 2015
Preceded byJohn Kerry
Succeeded byBob Corker
Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
In office
January 3, 2009 – January 3, 2011
LeaderHarry Reid
Preceded byChuck Schumer
Succeeded byPatty Murray
Chair of the House Democratic Caucus
In office
January 3, 2003 – January 16, 2006
LeaderNancy Pelosi
Preceded byMartin Frost
Succeeded byJim Clyburn
Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus
In office
January 3, 1999 – January 3, 2003
LeaderNancy Pelosi
Preceded byBarbara Kennelly
Succeeded byJim Clyburn
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New Jersey's 13th district
In office
January 3, 1993 – January 16, 2006
Preceded byJim Saxton
Succeeded byAlbio Sires
Member of the New Jersey State Senate
from the 33rd district
In office
March 4, 1991 – January 3, 1993
Preceded byChristopher Jackman
Succeeded byBernard Kenny
Member of the New Jersey General Assembly
from the 33rd district
In office
January 12, 1988 – March 4, 1991
Preceded byJose Arango
Succeeded byLouis Romano
Mayor of Union City
In office
1986–1992
Preceded byArthur Wichert
Succeeded byBruce Walter
Personal details
Born
Robert Menendez

(1954-01-01) January 1, 1954 (age 65)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)
Jane Jacobsen
(m. 1976; div. 2005)
Children2, including Alicia
1 stepdaughter
EducationSaint Peter's University (BA)
Rutgers Law School (JD)
Signature
WebsiteSenate website
[1]

In 1974, at the age of 20, he was first elected to the Union City School District's Board of Education. In 1986, he won the election for Mayor of Union City. In 1988, while continuing to serve as mayor, he was elected to represent the state's 33rd district in the General Assembly of New Jersey and, within three years, moved to the New Jersey State Senate, upon winning the March 1991 special election for the 33rd Senate district. The next year he won a seat in the Congress of the United States for the House of Representatives and represented New Jersey's 13th congressional district for six two-year terms, from 1993 to 2006. In January 2006, he was appointed to fill the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Jon Corzine (who had been elected 54th Governor of New Jersey), and was elected to a full six-year term in November; he was reelected in 2012 and 2018.

In 2015, Menendez was indicted on federal corruption charges in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, related to alleged favors he did for Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen and gifts he received from him, including campaign donations and private flights. Menendez pleaded not guilty to all charges.[2] His trial ended in a hung jury and a mistrial on November 16, 2017. On January 31, 2018, the Justice Department announced that it was dropping all charges against Menendez. In April 2018, Menendez was "severely admonished" by the United States Senate Select Committee on Ethics.

Early life

Robert Menendez was born on January 1, 1954 in New York City to Cuban immigrants[3][4] who had left Cuba a few months earlier, in 1953.[5] His father, Mario Menéndez, was a carpenter, and his mother, Evangelina, was a seamstress.[6] The family subsequently moved to neighboring New Jersey where he grew up in an apartment in Union City, New Jersey. He attended Union Hill High School, where his speech teacher, Gail Harper, helped Menendez emerge as a public speaker. Menendez explains, "My mother and Miss Harper made me understand the power of education, what it means to put a premium on learning and working hard."[7][8] While at Union Hill, Menendez became the student body president.[9] He went on to become the first in his family to go to college,[7] attending Saint Peter's College in Jersey City,[7][10][11] where he became a member of the Lambda Theta Phi fraternity.[12] He graduated with a B.A. in political science, and subsequently earned his Juris Doctor degree from Rutgers Law School in 1979 at the Newark campus.[7][10][11] Menendez was admitted to the New Jersey Bar in 1980[13][14] and became a lawyer in private practice.[8][15][16]

Early political career (1986–1993)

He was elected to the Union City Board of Education in 1974, the youngest ever to do so.[7] Menendez was elected mayor of Union City, the state's 13th most populous locality, on May 13, 1986 after an unsuccessful run against the popular William V. Musto in 1982. Menendez's Alliance Civic Association ticket, which included future Mayor Bruce Walter, won 57% of the vote, beating the reform slate Transformation '86 and the incumbent Union City Together ticket. The latter party, which included Musto's wife, Commissioner Rhyta Musto, represented the remnants of William Musto's political machine.[17] Menendez served as mayor until 1992 and, following election, in November 1987, to represent the state's 33rd district in General Assembly, continued to fulfill both elective offices until March 1991, when he moved from the General Assembly's 33rd district to the New Jersey Senate's 33rd district, upon winning the special election called following the death of State Senator Christopher Jackman.[18]

U.S. House of Representatives (1993–2006)

 
Representative Menendez in 2005

Elections

In 1992, incumbent Democratic U.S. Congressman Frank Guarini, of New Jersey's 14th congressional district, decided to retire after redistricting. The district had been renumbered as the 13th district, and reconfigured as a Latino-majority district. Menendez decided to run in the primary—the real contest in this heavily Democratic district—and defeated Robert Haney Jr. in the Democratic primary 68%–32%.[19] He won the general election with 64% of the vote, defeating New Jersey Superior Court Judge Fred J. Theemling Jr. in the general election.[20] After that, he won re-election every two years with at least 71% of the vote until he was appointed to the U.S. Senate in January 2006.[21]

Tenure

Menendez, who is described as very close to Republicans on foreign policy[22] voted for the failed Kosovo Resolution, authorizing the use of military force against Yugoslavia in the Kosovo War.[23] He was an early advocate of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear capabilities, sponsoring the Iran Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Act of 1998, which passed the House, but failed to pass in the Senate.[24]

Menendez voted in favor of Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists, authorizing the President the use of military force in Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks.[25] In 2002, Menendez voted against the Iraq Resolution to authorize the invasion of Iraq.[26]

Menendez voted against the United Nations Reform Act of 2005, cutting U.S. funding to the United Nations by 50% over 3 years, and was a sponsor of the Tsunami Orphans and Unaccompanied Children Act of 2005 to provide assistance to victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.[27][28]

In 2001, Menendez voted in favor of the PATRIOT Act, and for its reauthorization in 2006.[29][30]

In the 105th Congress, Menendez voted in favor of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, repealing provisions of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, repealing provisions that limited Investment banks from acquiring Insurance companies or other Commercial banks, and voted in favor of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000.[31][32] After the 2001 Enron scandal, Menendez voted with 333 other members of the House in favor of the Sarbanes–Oxley Act.[33]

Although he had sometimes been portrayed as the political boss of Hudson County, he strongly dislikes this appellation, particularly because, according to an anonymous close source quoted in the December 11, 2005 Union City Reporter, "there is no boss of Hudson County".[34] In 2005 a The New York Times Op-Ed characterized Menendez by stating, "Since entering politics as a corruption-fighting mayor of Union City, N.J., Mr. Menendez has become a proponent of business as usual. He has long been an entrenched de facto leader of the Hudson County Democratic machine."[35]

On August 27, 2006, two Republican state lawmakers filed an ethics complaint against Menendez, alleging he broke conflict-of-interest rules when he rented property out to a nonprofit agency that receives federal funds. Menendez helped the organization win designation as a Federally Qualified Health Center in 1998. That designation allowed the agency to receive additional federal grants.[36] Menendez allies noted that the organization in question, the North Hudson Community Action Corp., which provides social services and health care to the poor and was founded in 1960, had received federal funding for years before Menendez was in Congress, and receives its funding based on mathematical formulas.[37] Menendez maintains that he rented the property out below market-value because "he was supportive of its work".[38] The total rent collected over nine years was over $300,000.

In September 2006, just a few weeks before the 2006 senate elections, the office of the US District Attorney, Republican Chris Christie, began investigating the rental deal with NHCAC, subpoenaing records from them. Some Democrats criticized the investigation, particularly the timing of the investigation and news leaks, as being politically motivated.[39]

On August 18, 2015, Menendez announced his opposition to the nuclear deal with Iran, saying "President Obama continues to erroneously say that this agreement permanently stops Iran from having a nuclear bomb, Let's be clear: What the agreement does is to recommit Iran not to pursue a nuclear bomb, a promise they have already violated in the past." [40]

U.S. Senate (2006–present)

In January 2006, Menendez was appointed by Governor Jon Corzine to fill the remaining year in the Senate seat from which Corzine resigned upon being elected the previous month as Governor of New Jersey. While several other names had been mentioned, Menendez was the early favorite among pundits for Governor-elect Corzine's replacement to fill the vacancy that would be created when Corzine resigned from the Senate.[41][42] Corzine's decision to appoint Menendez got the support of several Latino groups, including the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.[43] Menendez was the sixth Latino to serve in the United States Senate.[44]

In 2015, he was ranked #1 on The Hudson Reporter's annual Power List of the "Fifty Most Powerful Political Figures in Hudson County".[45]

Elections

 
Senator Portrait of Robert Menendez

1996

When incumbent Democrat U.S. Senator Bill Bradley decided to retire in August 1995,[46] Menendez made known his intention to run in the November 1996 election for the seat, but eventually dropped out of the race and endorsed Robert Torricelli, the Democrat representing New Jersey's 9th congressional district. Similarly, in 1999, when the state's other U.S. Senator, Democrat Frank Lautenberg, also announced his planned retirement, Menendez again decided not to run, with the Democratic nomination for the November 2000 race ultimately going to Goldman Sachs CEO Jon Corzine who won the general election.[47]

2006

In the midterm elections held November 7, 2006, near the end of his one-year appointment, Menendez ran to retain his seat in the Senate. He defeated Republican Thomas Kean Jr., incumbent minority whip in the New Jersey Senate and son of former state governor Thomas Kean, with 53% of the vote to Kean's 45%.

Menendez was endorsed by several newspapers including The New York Times,[48] The Philadelphia Inquirer,[49] The Star-Ledger,[50] and The Record.[51]

2012

Menendez ran for re-election for a second full term and defeated Republican Joe Kyrillos on November 6, 2012.

2018

Menendez won re-election to a third term in 2018, defeating Bob Hugin.

Committee assignments

As of July 2019, Menendez serves on the United States Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; the United States Senate Committee on Finance; and the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.[52]

Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs:
Subcommittee on Economic Policy;
Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development (ranking member);
Subcommittee on Securities, Insurance, and Investment.
Committee on Finance:
Subcommittee on Health Care;
Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness;
Subcommittee on Taxation and IRS Oversight.
Committee on Foreign Relations (ranking member):♦
Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy;
Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy;
Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation;
Subcommittee on Multilateral International Development, Multilateral Institutions, and International Economic, Energy, and Environmental Policy;
Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism;
Subcommittee on State Department and USAID Management, International Operations, and Bilateral International Development;
Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women's Issues.

♦ As ranking member of the full committee, Menendez is an ex officio member of all its subcommittees.[53]

Caucus memberships

Tenure

 
Menendez (second from right) marching in the North Hudson Cuban Day Parade with Union City Mayor Brian P. Stack (second from left), June 6, 2010

Immigration

Menendez is an "aggressive advocate" of immigration reform,[58][59] calling it the "civil rights issue of our time".[60] Menendez had introduced multiple pieces of legislation in attempts to overhaul what Menendez calls our "failed immigration system."[61] Menendez introduced the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2011.[62] It was seen[by whom?] as a sweeping overhaul of the U.S. Immigration System; the 697-page bill died in the Senate Judiciary Committee.[63] In 2009 he introduced the Orphans, Widows, and Widowers Protection Act, granting a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented widowers and orphans of deceased U.S. Citizens.[64]

Menendez is a strong supporter of the DREAM Act, saying that, "Children should not be punished for the actions of their parents. These kids have grown up as Americans, worked hard in school and now they want to serve our country in the military or pursue a college education. This is the only home many of them have known and they should be encouraged to pursue the American dream."[65] He voted for the DREAM Act in 2007 and was a cosponsor along with 31 other members of the Senate in the Act's failed passage in 2010.[66][67]

Menendez voted against denying legal status to illegal immigrants convicted of domestic violence, crimes against children and crimes relating to the illegal purchase or sale of firearms, but voted in favor of establishing a six-month to twenty-year ban for undocumented immigrants seeking citizenship who had been convicted for the same crimes along with of obstruction of justice, human trafficking and the participation of criminal gang activity.[68][69]

 
Menendez marching in the annual Cuban Day Parade in North Hudson, New Jersey

Menendez has been a supporter of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006, and Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007, voting for both bills.[70][71] Menendez voted against Senate Amendment 1151, declaring English as the national language of the Federal government of the United States.[72] He voted to continue federal funding for declared "sanctuary cities."[73]

He voted for the Secure Fence Act of 2006, building 700 miles (1,100 km) of physical barriers and expanding surveillance at the Mexico-United States border, and was a supporter of Senate Amendment 4775, a provision Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2007 which would have appropriated $1.8 billion for the construction of 370 miles (600 km) of triple-layered fencing, and 461 miles (742 km) of vehicle barriers along parts of the Southwest.[74][75]

On January 28, 2013, Menendez was a member of a bi-partisan group of eight Senators which announced principles for comprehensive immigration reform (CIR).[76] Menendez was recognized in 2014 by the National Council of La Raza (America's largest Latino advocacy organization) for his work in supporting immigration reform as a member of the "Gang of Eight."[77]

Agriculture

In June 2019, Menendez and eighteen other Democratic senators sent a letter to USDA Inspector General (IG) Phyllis K. Fong with the request that the IG investigate USDA instances of retaliation and political decision-making and asserted that not conducting an investigation would mean these "actions could be perceived as a part of this administration’s broader pattern of not only discounting the value of federal employees, but suppressing, undermining, discounting, and wholesale ignoring scientific data produced by their own qualified scientists."[78]

Disaster relief

In April 2018, Menendez was one of five Democratic senators to sign a letter to FEMA administrator Brock Long calling on FEMA to enter an agreement with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development that would "stand up the Disaster Housing Assistance Program and address the medium- and longer-term housing needs" of evacuees of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The senators asserted that "FEMA's refusal to use the tools at its disposal, including DHAP, to help these survivors is puzzling -- and profoundly troubling" and that hundreds of hurricane survivors were susceptible to being left homeless in the event that FEMA and HUD continued to not work together.[79][80]

Environment

Menendez introduced legislation that would give incentives for the conversion of vehicles to run on natural gas; the bill did not make it out of committee in its first incarnation, and failed to receive 60 votes required to pass in 2012.[81]

In February 2019, in response to reports of the EPA intending to decide against setting drinking water limits for perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) as part of an upcoming national strategy to manage the aforementioned class of chemicals, Menendez was one of twenty senators to sign a letter to Acting EPA Administrator Andrew R. Wheeler calling on the agency "to develop enforceable federal drinking water standards for PFOA and PFOS, as well as institute immediate actions to protect the public from contamination from additional per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)."[82]

In June 2019, Menendez was one of forty-four senators to introduce the International Climate Accountability Act, legislation that would prevent President Trump from using funds in an attempt to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and directing the president's administration to instead develop a strategic plan for the United States that would allow it to meet its commitment under the Paris Agreement.[83]

Education

Menendez sponsored the Student Non-Discrimination Act, expanding Title IX of the Education Amendments Act to LGBT students, and the Safe Schools Improvement Act of 2011 which would also amend the Higher Education Act of 1965.[84][85] Menendez voted for the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009 saying that: "When someone is harassed, assaulted or killed simply because of the type of person they are, it's a crime against an entire community and our nation's values."[86][87] In 2012 Menendez received a 94% rating from the Human Rights Campaign.[88]

During a press conference about the Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act, Menendez claimed that New Jersey was facing a $10.5 billion shortfall in its 2012 fiscal budget that would lead to cuts in state spending on education. This statement was rated as "false" by Politifact because the 2012 budget was in fact balanced and increased funding for education.[89]

LGBT policy

Menendez voted for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as a congressman in 1996; on December 18, 2011, he came out in support, and is a cosponsor, of the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA.[90][91] Menendez also voted for the U.S. Military's Don't ask, don't tell as a congressman, and was a cosponsor DADT repeal act in 2010.[92][93]

In 1999, Menendez voted against a proposed amendment which would have banned adoption in Washington D.C. by same-sex couples and other persons not related by blood or marriage. The amendment failed with 213 votes in favor and 215 votes against.[94]

On the issue of gay rights Menendez said "Two people who want to be committed to each other should be able to enter into marriage, and they should receive the benefits that flow from that commitment."[95]

Gun policy

Menendez has an "F" rating from the National Rifle Association and an "F-" rating from the Gun Owners of America due to his support of gun law reform.[96] Specifically, he supports universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons.[97]

In January 2019, Menendez was one of forty senators to introduce the Background Check Expansion Act, a bill that would require background checks for either the sale or transfer of all firearms including all unlicensed sellers. Exceptions to the bill's background check requirement included transfers between members of law enforcement, loaning firearms for either hunting or sporting events on a temporary basis, providing firearms as gifts to members of one's immediate family, firearms being transferred as part of an inheritance, or giving a firearm to another person temporarily for immediate self-defense.[98]

In June 2019, Menendez was one of four senators to cosponsor the Help Empower Americans to Respond (HEAR) Act, legislation that would ban suppressors being imported, sold, made, sent elsewhere or possessed and grant a silencer buyback program as well as include certain exceptions for current and former law enforcement personnel and others. The bill was intended to respond to the Virginia Beach shooting where the perpetrator used a .45-caliber handgun with multiple extended magazines and a suppressor.[99]

Healthcare

In December 2018, Menendez was one of forty-two senators to sign a letter to Trump administration officials Alex Azar, Seema Verma, and Steve Mnuchin arguing that the administration was improperly using Section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act to authorize states to "increase health care costs for millions of consumers while weakening protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions." The senators requested the administration withdraw the policy and "re-engage with stakeholders, states, and Congress."[100]

In January 2019, during the 2018–19 United States federal government shutdown, Menendez was one of thirty-four senators to sign a letter to Commissioner of Food and Drugs Scott Gottlieb recognizing the efforts of the FDA to address the effect of the government shutdown on the public health and employees while remaining alarmed "that the continued shutdown will result in increasingly harmful effects on the agency’s employees and the safety and security of the nation’s food and medical products."[101]

Foreign affairs

 
Menendez with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Kiev, Ukraine, September 2014

In February 2006, Menendez cosponsored legislation with New York Senator Hillary Clinton to make it illegal for foreign governments to buy U.S. port operations. The legislation was a direct response to Dubai Ports World's efforts to purchase Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O) of the United Kingdom, which operates six major U.S. ports. Menendez said, "Our ports are the front lines of the war on terrorism. They are both vulnerable targets for attack and venues for smuggling and human trafficking. We wouldn't turn the Border Patrol or the Customs Service over to a foreign government, and we can't afford to turn our ports over to one either."[102]

On April 25, 2008, a former undercover F.B.I. agent revealed in the book Ruse: Undercover with FBI Counterintelligence that Cuban diplomats approached freelance blogger and journalist Robert Eringer to investigate Menendez. It was suggested that the Cuban government was determined to generate derogatory information about the senator, along with Florida Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln Diaz-Balart, because of their anti-Castro lobbying efforts.[103]

In October 2009, Menendez sent a strongly worded letter of protest to Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias, castigating him for his praise of Cuba's totalitarian system. Christofias, the leader of AKEL, Cyprus's Communist Party, from 1988 to 2009 and president from 2008 to 2013, had paid a state visit to Cuba in September 2009 for the opening of Cyprus's new embassy and, in his speech, made a number of anti-American embargo references, and spoke of the "common struggle of Cyprus and Cuba". In his letter to Christofias, Menendez stated "you cannot claim human rights violations by Turkey in your country and then ignore such violations in Cuba. Second, you cannot call for property rights for Greek Cypriots and then deny them on Cuba. Finally, you cannot take issue with the militarization of northern Cyprus and then ignore the state security apparatus that oppresses the Cuban people."[104][105]

In December 2010, Menendez voted for the ratification of New Start,[106] a nuclear arms reduction treaty between the United States and Russian Federation obliging both countries to have no more than 1,550 strategic warheads as well as 700 launchers deployed during the next seven years along with providing a continuation of on-site inspections that halted when START I expired the previous year. It was the first arms treaty with Russia in eight years.[107]

In March 2017, Menendez co-sponsored the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S.270), which made it a federal crime, punishable by a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment,[108] for Americans to encourage or participate in boycotts against Israel and Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories if protesting actions by the Israeli government.[109]

In 2018, Menendez urged Vice President Mike Pence to enter talks with Ecuador about withdrawing its asylum for Julian Assange. His letter, signed by nine other senators alleged that it was Assange's goal to "undermine democratic processes globally".[110] In March 2018, Menendez voted against Bernie Sanders' and Chris Murphy's resolution that would end U.S. support for the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen.[111] However, Menendez criticized Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen,[112] saying "The Saudi Coalition bears significant responsibility for the magnitude of human suffering and scale of destruction in Yemen. Seventy five percent of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance and more than 8 million are on the brink of famine."[113] Noting concerns with the language after voting for Bob Corker's resolution naming the Saudi crown prince as "responsible" for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, he stated: "regardless of all of my other concerns about language is the central essence of what the chairman is going to do. I think it's incredibly important for the Senate to speak on that issue and hopefully speak with one voice."[114]

Menendez condemned the genocide of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar and called for a stronger response to the crisis.[115][116]

Menendez raised the issue of Xinjiang re-education camps and described China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslim minority as "beyond abhorrent".[117] Menendez said: "The President needs to have a clear and consistent approach to China, and not turn a blind eye as a million Muslims are unjustly imprisoned and forced into labour camps by an autocratic regime."[118]

In January 2019, Menendez opposed President Donald Trump's planned withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan as a threat to U.S. national security.[119]

In April 2019, Menendez was one of thirty-four senators to sign a letter to President Trump encouraging him "to listen to members of your own Administration and reverse a decision that will damage our national security and aggravate conditions inside Central America", asserting that Trump had "consistently expressed a flawed understanding of U.S. foreign assistance" since becoming president and that he was "personally undermining efforts to promote U.S. national security and economic prosperity" through preventing the use of Fiscal Year 2018 national security funding. The senators argued that foreign assistance to Central American countries created less migration to the U.S., citing the funding's helping to improve conditions in those countries.[120]

In June 2019 Menendez called for the immediate release of Ukrainian journalist Stanislav Aseyev who is being held in custody by militants from so-called Donetsk People's Republic.[121][122]

Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Menendez became chairman of the prestigious Foreign Relations committee following John Kerry's confirmation as Secretary of State in January 2013.[123] His "Syria force resolution" was praised by President Obama and others. In the 114th United States Congress, as the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Menendez continues to be a leader on issues regarding Iran[clarification needed], supporting legislation that would take a "hard line" on that nation.[124] Following his being indicted, Menendez stepped down as ranking member.[125]

Foreign affairs legislation sponsored

Other issues

On September 28, 2006 Menendez voted for the Military Commissions Act.[131]

On June 12, 2007, Menendez endorsed Hillary Clinton's presidential bid and was given the position of National Campaign Co-Chair. Subsequently, he made numerous media appearances voicing his support for her campaign.[132]

In 2009, Menendez succeeded Senator Chuck Schumer of New York as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Menendez's tenure, which has followed two straight election cycles of dramatic Democratic gains, has been marked by more troubled Democratic outlook. Critics of Menendez have pointed out the surprising Democratic loss in the 2010 Massachusetts Senate special election that followed the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy; Menendez's lower-key, more cautious management style; and Democratic problems caused by retirements in Indiana and elsewhere. Others, such as Schumer, have defended Menendez's performance, citing the negative political climate.[133]

An effort to recall Menendez was launched in early 2010 by a group of New Jersey citizens.[134] Although Article 1, Paragraph 2(b) of the New Jersey Constitution expressly authorizes such a recall,[135] state officials fought the effort in court.[136] On March 16, 2010, a State Appeals court ruled that the recall petition could go forward.[137] Menendez said he was surprised that a group claiming to be true to the Constitution is trying now, in his words, "to undermine it".[138] Menendez appealed the ruling.[139] Legal experts have debated the constitutionality of a state recall of a federal officeholder.[140] On November 18, 2010, the New Jersey Supreme Court found that the New Jersey provision violated the U.S. Constitution.[141]

In 2010, The Wall Street Journal reported that Menendez had written to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke,[142] asking him to approve an acquisition that would rescue from the prospect of receivership a New Jersey bank, First Bank Americano, operated by Menendez contributors.[143] It was discovered that "eight of 15 directors, including the bank's chairman and vice-chairman, have been contributors to Menendez or his political action committee."[144] Former federal bank regulator William K. Black called the letter "grotesquely inappropriate" and said that "the letter crossed an unofficial line by asking regulators to approve an application instead of simply asking that it be given consideration."[143] An aide to the senator said that his decision to write the letter was not influenced by political contributions. A highly critical report by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation found that the institution had engaged in unsafe or unsound banking practices, including operating without adequate supervision by its board of directors, an excessive level of delinquent or bad loans, inadequate earnings and insufficient coverage of its assets.[145][146][147][148]

On January 5, 2012 Menendez blocked Judge Patty Shwartz, an Obama administration nominee to a federal judgeship, drawing speculation that the block was placed because of Shwartz's relationship with the head of the public corruption unit for New Jersey's federal prosecutor who had investigated the senator during his 2006 election fight.[149] Menendez denied personal motivation for the block. He has long contended that the corruption investigation was politically motivated.[150][151] The investigation was closed in late 2011, with no charges filed.[152]

On December 12, 2012 it was reported that the Senator's office had an unpaid intern volunteering who had let his visitor visa expire and who was a registered sex offender.[153] The Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement had been aware of the man as early as October 2012 but according to the Associated Press, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) instructed their Federal agents not to arrest the man until after Election Day. Menendez denied knowing about the allegation of the directive to delay the arrest and only recently learned of the arrest. According to two federal officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case, the intern was arrested in front of his home in New Jersey on December 6, 2012.[154][155]

In May 2014, Menendez received an award for Political Courage at a gala organized by the American Friends of [Israeli political party] Likud, where he reaffirmed the strong alliance between the United States and Israel and stated, "several thousands of years of history lead to an undeniable conclusion, the reestablishment of the State of Israel in modern times is a political reality with roots going back to the time of Abraham and Sarah and historical texts and artifacts". He rejected the boycott Israel movements.[156]

In February 2015, The Intercept published an investigative work by Ali Gharib and Eli Clifton, assisted in part by the work of independent researcher Joanne Stocker, indicating that Menendez has received at least two donations from the People's Mujahedin of Iran (MEK) before September 2012, when it was listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Menendez became an outspoken advocate of the MEK after it was delisted, taking more than $25,000 between 2013 and 2015.[157]

Menendez spearheaded a nonbinding resolution in July 2018 "warning President Trump not to let the Russian government question diplomats and other officials". The resolution states the United States "should refuse to make available any current or former diplomat, civil servant, political appointee, law enforcement official or member of the Armed Forces of the United States for questioning by the government of Vladimir Putin". It passed 98-0.[158]

In April 2019, Menendez was one of forty-one senators to sign a bipartisan letter to the housing subcommittee praising the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development's Section 4 Capacity Building program as authorizing "HUD to partner with national nonprofit community development organizations to provide education, training, and financial support to local community development corporations (CDCs) across the country" and expressing disappointment that President Trump's budget "has slated this program for elimination after decades of successful economic and community development." The senators wrote of their hope that the subcommittee would support continued funding for Section 4 in Fiscal Year 2020.[159]

Attempted implication in prostitution scandal

In November 2012, the conservative political news and opinion website Daily Caller published allegations that Menendez had contact with underage prostitutes in the Dominican Republic.[160][161] The allegations were promoted by Republican Party operatives, who arranged interviews for two women accusing Menendez of patronizing prostitutes with ABC News and the Daily Caller.[162] However, ABC News and other news organizations such as The New York Times, and the New York Post declined to publish the allegations, viewing them as unsubstantiated and lacking credibility.[161][162][163] One of the women who had accused Menendez stated that she had been paid to falsely implicate the Senator and had never met him.[162][164] The Daily Caller says this woman was not interviewed for their story.[165] Menendez's office described the allegations as "manufactured" by a "right-wing blog" as a politically motivated smear.[166] On March 18, 2013 police in the Dominican Republic announced that three women had said they had been paid $300–425 each to lie about having had sex with Menendez.[167]

2015 corruption charges

External video
  Q&A interview with former U.S. attorney Randall Eliason on the Menendez indictment and trial, September 17, 2017, C-SPAN

In 2013, reports surfaced that a federal grand jury in Miami was investigating Menendez regarding his role in advocating for the business interests of Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen, one of his close friends and major donors.[168][169] On April 1, 2015, the United States Department of Justice indicted both Menendez and Melgen. The charges against Menendez included bribery, fraud, and making false statements.[170] According to the indictment, Menendez asked top State Department officials to pressure the Dominican Republic's government into enforcing a port-security contract that would benefit Melgen's company while at the same time Melgen was promising to give $60,000 to Menendez's political campaign.[171] Prosecutors also charged that Menendez acted as Melgen's "personal senator," helping obtain visas for several of Melgen's girlfriends.[172][173] In return, Menendez was accused of accepting a range of perks from Melgen, including trips on Melgen's private jet, three nights at a five-star Paris hotel, a round of golf at a private club in West Palm Beach and access to an exclusive Dominican resort - some of which Menendez allegedly failed to report on financial disclosure forms.[170] Melgen also donated a substantial amount of money to benefit Menendez's political campaigns, and prosecutors claim that $750,000 of those contributions were tied to personal benefits Menendez accepted.[174][175]

Following his indictment, Menendez voluntarily stepped down as ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee.[176] Menendez's trial began on September 6, 2017 before Judge William H. Walls of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey.[173] On November 16, 2017, the judge declared a mistrial due to the jury's continuing inability to reach a unanimous verdict on any of the charges.[177] On January 31, 2018, the Justice Department announced they were dropping all charges against Menendez.[178] The Menendez case was strongly shaped by McDonnell v. United States, the 2016 Supreme Court decision to dismiss the corruption conviction of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, which narrowed the legal definition of public corruption and made it harder for prosecutors to prove that a political official engaged in bribery.[179][180]

In April 2018, Menendez was "severely admonished" by the United States Senate Select Committee on Ethics in a letter.[181][182] In that letter, the Committee stated the following:

The Committee has found that over a six-year period you knowingly and repeatedly accepted gifts of significant value from Dr. Melgen without obtaining required Committee approval, and that you failed to publicly disclose certain gifts as required by Senate Rule and federal law. Additionally, while accepting these gifts, you used your position as a Member of the Senate to advance Dr. Melgen’s personal and business interests. The Committee has determined that this conduct violated Senate Rules, federal law, and applicable standards of conduct. Accordingly, the Committee issues you this Public Letter of Admonition, and also directs you to repay the fair market value of all impermissible gifts not already repaid.[183]

Awards and honors

In December 2013 the town of West New York, New Jersey, which borders his childhood home of Union City to the north, honored Menendez by renaming its Public School No. 3 after him. The renaming of the elementary school was celebrated with a December 4, 2013, ceremony at that school at which city, county, state and federal dignitaries were present and spoke in various addresses of support and compliments.[7][184]

Personal life

In 1976, Menendez married Jane Jacobsen, a teacher for the Union City Board of Education and Union City Public Schools. They had two children: a daughter Alicia (who is now a television commentator),[185][186] and son Robert. They divorced in 2005.[187]

As of 2014, Menendez lived in Paramus, New Jersey.[188]

Electoral history

New Jersey Assembly

New Jersey's 33rd State Assembly district Democratic primary election: 1987
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Democratic Bernard Kenny Jr. 10,132 33%
Democratic Robert ("Bob") Menendez 9,788 32%
Democratic Leonard Altamura 5,493 18%
Democratic Sixto Macias 5,147 17%
New Jersey's 33rd State Assembly district election: 1987
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Democratic Bernard Kenny Jr. 18,810 30%
Democratic Robert ("Bob") Menendez 18,446 29%
Republican Angelo Valente 12,888 20%
Republican Jose Arango 12,638 20%
"Pride-Responsibility" Michael Dapuzzo 557 1%
"Pride-Responsibility" Wanda Morales 312 <1%
New Jersey's 33rd State Assembly district election: 1989
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Democratic Bernard Kenny Jr. (inc.) 24,294 34%
Democratic Robert ("Bob") Menendez (inc.) 23,767 34%
Republican Ann Clark 11,738 17%
Republican Antonio Miguelez 10,800 15%

State Senate

New Jersey's 33rd State Senate district election: 1991
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Democratic Robert ("Bob") Menendez 19,151 69%
Republican Carlos Munoz 8,652 31%

House

New Jersey's 13th congressional district Democratic primary: 1992
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Democratic Robert ("Bob") Menendez 24,245 68%
Democratic Robert Haney Jr. 11,409 32%
New Jersey's 13th congressional district: 1992[189]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Robert ("Bob") Menendez 93,670 64%
Republican Fred J. Theemling Jr. 44,529 31%
Stop Tax Increases Joseph D. Bonacci 2,363 2%
Libertarian Len Flynn 1,539 1%
Communist John E. Rummel 1,525 1%
Socialist Workers Jane Harris 1,406 1%
Majority 49,141 33%
New Jersey's 13th congressional district: 1994[189]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Robert ("Bob") Menendez 67,688 71% +7
Republican Fernando A. Alonso 24,071 25% -6
We the People Frank J. Rubino Jr. 1,494 2% N/A
Politicians Are Crooks Herbert H. Shaw 1,319 1% N/A
Socialist Workers Steven Marshall 895 1% N/A
Majority 43,617 46% +13
New Jersey's 13th congressional district Democratic primary: 1996
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Democratic Robert ("Bob") Menendez 34,685 93%
Democratic Christopher Curioli 2,685 7%
New Jersey's 13th congressional district: 1996[189]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Robert ("Bob") Menendez 115,459 79% +8
Republican Carlos E. Munoz 24,427 17% -8
Independent Herbert H. Shaw 2,136 1% 0
Independent Mike Buoncristiano 2,094 1% N/A
Independent William P. Estrada 720 <1% N/A
Independent Rupert Ravens 637 <1% N/A
Majority 91,032 62% +16
New Jersey's 13th congressional district: 1998[189]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Robert ("Bob") Menendez 70,308 80% +1
Republican Theresa de Leon 14,615 17% 0
Independent Richard S. Hester, Sr. 1,276 1% N/A
Independent Richard G. Rivera 872 1% N/A
Independent Susan Anmuth 752 1% N/A
Majority 55,693 63% +1
New Jersey's 13th congressional district: 2000[189]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Robert ("Bob") Menendez 117,856 79% -1
Republican Theresa de Leon 27,849 19% +2
Independent Claudette C. Meliere 2,741 2% N/A
Independent Dick Hester 562 <1% N/A
Independent Herbert H. Shaw 357 <1% N/A
Majority 90,007 60% -3
New Jersey's 13th congressional district: 2002[189]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Robert ("Bob") Menendez 72,605 78% -1
Republican James Geron 16,852 18% -1
Green Pat Henry Faulkner 1,195 1% N/A
Anti-Corruption Doctor Esmat Zaklama 740 1% N/A
Pro Life Conservative Dick Hester 732 1% N/A
Politicians are Crooks Herbert H. Shaw 573 1% N/A
Majority 55,753 60% 0
New Jersey's 13th congressional district Democratic primary: 2004
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Democratic Robert ("Bob") Menendez 33,622 87%
Democratic Steven Fulop 4,851 13%
New Jersey's 13th congressional district: 2004[189]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Robert ("Bob") Menendez 121,018 76% -2
Republican Richard W. Piatkowski 35,288 22% +4
Pro Life Conservative Dick Hester 1,282 1% N/A
Politicos son Corruptos Herbert H. Shaw 1,066 1% 0
Socialist Workers Angela L. Lariscy 887 1% 0
Majority 85,730 54% -6

Write-in and minor candidate notes: In 1992, Donald K. Stoveken as an America First Populist received 682 votes. In 2000, Alina Lydia Fonteboa received 233 votes and Kari Sachs received 168 votes. In 2002, a candidate listed only as "Independent (The American Party)" received 34 votes; also, Herbert Shaw's full party name was "Politicians are Crooks – Politicos son Corruptos" (shortened for display purposes above).

Senate

New Jersey United States Senate Democratic primary election, 2006
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Democratic Robert ("Bob") Menendez (inc.) 159,604 84%
Democratic James Kelly Jr. 30,340 16%
New Jersey United States Senate election, 2006[190]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Robert ("Bob") Menendez (inc.) 1,200,843 53.3 +3.1
Republican Thomas Kean Jr. 997,775 44.3 -2.8
Libertarian Len Flynn 14,637 0.7 +0.4
Marijuana Edward Forchion 11,593 0.5 n/a
Independent J.M. Carter 7,918 0.4 +0.2
Independent N. Leonard Smith 6,243 0.3 n/a
Independent Daryl Brooks 5,138 0.2 n/a
Socialist Workers Angela Lariscy 3,433 0.2 +0.1
Socialist Gregory Pason 2,490 0.1 +0.0
Majority 203,068 9.0
Turnout 2,250,070
Democratic hold Swing 3.26
United States Senate election in New Jersey, 2012[191]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Robert ("Bob") Menendez (incumbent) 1,783,943 58.4% +5.1%
Republican Joseph Kyrillos 1,220,605 39.9% -4.4%
Libertarian Kenneth R. Kaplan 14,802 0.5% -0.2%
Green Ken Wolski 13,874 0.5% +0.5%
Others 23,511 0.8% -1.0%
Majority
Turnout 3,056,735
 
2018 Democratic primary results by county:
  Menendez—70–80%
  Menendez—60–70%
  Menendez—50–60%
  McCormick—50–60%
  McCormick—60–70%
2018 Democratic primary results
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Bob Menendez (incumbent) 262,477 62.3
Democratic Lisa McCormick 158,998 37.7
Total votes 421,475 100.0
United States Senate election in New Jersey, 2018[192]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Bob Menendez (incumbent) 1,711,654 54.01% -4.86%
Republican Bob Hugin 1,357,355 42.83% +3.46%
Green Madelyn Hoffman 25,150 0.79% +0.32%
Libertarian Murray Sabrin 21,212 0.67% +0.17%
Independent Natalie Rivera 19,897 0.63% N/A
Independent Tricia Flanagan 16,101 0.51% N/A
Independent Kevin Kimple 9,087 0.29% N/A
Independent Hank Schroeder 8,854 0.28% N/A
Total votes 3,169,310 100.0% N/A
Democratic hold

See also

References

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External links

Articles
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Jim Saxton
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New Jersey's 13th congressional district

1993–2006
Succeeded by
Albio Sires
Party political offices
Preceded by
Barbara Kennelly
Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus
2003–2006
Succeeded by
Jim Clyburn
Preceded by
Martin Frost
Chair of the House Democratic Caucus
2003–2006
Preceded by
Jon Corzine
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from New Jersey
(Class 1)

2006, 2012, 2018
Most recent
Preceded by
Chuck Schumer
Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
2009–2011
Succeeded by
Patty Murray
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Jon Corzine
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from New Jersey
2006–present
Served alongside: Frank Lautenberg, Jeffrey Chiesa, Cory Booker
Incumbent
Preceded by
John Kerry
Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
2013–2015
Succeeded by
Bob Corker
Preceded by
Bob Corker
Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
2015
Succeeded by
Ben Cardin
Preceded by
Ben Cardin
Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
2018–present
Incumbent
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Johnny Isakson
United States Senators by seniority
26th
Succeeded by
Ben Cardin