LaMarche: Melendez and our acceptance of deception

It knows no party lines.

Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ)

by Kolby LaMarche

On April 1, 2015, the United States Department of Justice, under the supervision of Loretta Lynch, brought indictments against New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez in the case of United States v. Menendez. 

Accused of bribery, fraud, and making false statements, Menendez held an incriminating relationship with an ophthalmologist from Florida named Salomon Melgen. Menendez was alleged to have aided Melgen in obtaining visas for his many girlfriends and in return was granted access to a private jet, a hotel in Paris, $750k in political donations, and much more.

Though, Menendez would never be held to account. On November 16, 2017, a district court judge would render a mistrial. 

On Friday, Menendez was once again indicted on similar charges: Conspiracy to commit bribery, Conspiracy to Commit Honest Services Fraud, and Conspiracy to Commit Extortion Under Color of Official Right. 

The U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York accuses Menendez of aiding the government of Egypt, using his influence as a prominent senator to shift the levers of government.  

During a raid on the senator’s home, the FBI discovered an approximate sum of $500,000 in cash along with over $100,000 in gold during a raid at Menendez’s residence last year, purportedly as compensation for the bribes. 

According to the indictment, Menendez established Strategic International Business Consultants, LLC, as a conduit for channelling proceeds from his bribery activities.

I want you to think back to earlier this year when a fuss began about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s relationship with Republican megadonor Harlan Crow. 

According to ProPublica:

For more than two decades, Thomas has accepted luxury trips virtually every year from the Dallas businessman without disclosing them, documents and interviews show. A public servant who has a salary of $285,000, he has vacationed on Crow’s superyacht around the globe. He flies on Crow’s Bombardier Global 5000 jet. 

Both incidents of misconduct are distasteful, but I argue that it is something Americans are, unfortunately, well accustomed to. 

While the media may sensationalise the spectacles of poor conduct – from Trump’s Russia, Russia, Russia or his recent indictments, to Justice Thomas, or Senator Menendez – it isn’t as if the American people held a high regard for government to begin with. There isn’t much these scandals will do in the way of damaging confidence in government. It is already grim. 

According to Gallup, American confidence in major U.S. institutions sits at a record low of 27%. Congress, more specifically, holds an approval rating of a simple 7%, down from 12% in 2021. 

It should be clear now – if it wasn’t already – that corruption isn’t just a hallmark of the Republican Party, as some Democrats might claim. In fact, corruption and delinquency stretch from one end of the spectrum to the other. 

Americans must advocate for serious ethics reform and term limits across all U.S. institutions. Well-established politicians have become entrenched in their positions, resulting in an unhealthy concentration of power amongst those with wrinkly skin and thick bank accounts. 

And like it or not, corruption and distrust in government fuels the rise of figures like Trump, who exploit the populist and outsider narratives to capitalize on the real anxieties of Americans. When people see ethical lapses in politics, they become disillusioned, making them receptive to charismatic outsiders promising change. 

We have to break free from the tolerance we have built up toward the transgressions of those in government and honestly examine whose name we check off on our ballot paper. Lest we continue to live in an inefficient democracy.

Burning Sky is dedicated to providing critique and commentary on the issues of the day from an unapologetic perspective, fueling change in the heart of Vermont. Authored by Kolby LaMarche every Saturday.

Categories: Commentary

6 replies »

  1. For a guy whose net worth after skimming for decades is essentially zilch looks like he has finally done pretty well for himself . Mom would be proud.

    It is most likely a safe bet this one is just the tip of the iceberg.

    I would imagine that other public servants may be taking notice as he may not have shared, gotten too greedy, gotten too close to becoming a public nuisance or was asking the wrong things of the wring people(it is New Jersey).

    Our enjoyment could have been enhanced if it was Bernie, But, for some reason the feds took a pass on he and his wife’s activity. Perhaps a second pass is in order?

  2. Vermonters need not look too far to see who gets cash and a free pass !!
    To bad Vermont, doesn’t wake up before it’s too late, being over-taxed
    for nonsense………………………..

  3. Panic in the DNC and District of Corruption? Is that why Hilliary, John Podesta, Marina Abromovic, et al, are in the headlines of late. Spotlights are getting super hot and super bright.

  4. The ancient greeks talked extensively about this flaw of democracy. Namely once the wealthy figured out they could pay the politicians in exchange for favors the system was no longer good for the people.

  5. And what about George Santos? Why are Republicans supporting this fraudster other than they need his vote.

    • All Santos did was lie about his past…which is basically a prerequisite to serve in Congress. “Da Nang” Dick Blumenthal of Connecticut rode his lie about his supposed service in Viet Nam all the way to the Senate and has been there ever since. Need more examples?