msnbc | February 02, 2013
>>> new details in the investigation of democratic senator robert menendez . it is now reported the senator may have used his power to help a friend's business interests. he was accused of violating campaign finance laws.
>> these are nameless, faceless, anonymous allegations.
>> well there you heard that. joining me now with the very latest is nbc news national investigative correspondent, michael issakoff. they say senator menendez may have used his influence to benefit a florida owner's port security business in the dominican republic . this same donor whose office was raided by the fbi earlier this week. what are you hearing?
>> exactly. this all revolves around the senator's relationship with a florida eye doctor named dr. seymour melgi n, one of his top fundraisers and a long-time political contributor and friend. so here's what we know. starting in june of last year, dr. melgen began pumping a large amount of money, amounting to about $700,000, into a democratic superpac that was heavily backing senator menendez 's re-election. then in august, senator menendez , chairing a senate subcommittee hearing, presses state department officials urging them to back a contract in the dominican republic for port security that would benefit a company-owned by dr. melgen to the tune of potentially tens of millions of dollars. now, senator menendez 's offices say there's no connection between the political contributions and senator menendez ' relationship with the doctor and his pushing for that contract. they say the senator's interest was only in beefing up security in the dominican republic to stop the threat of drug trafficking . but the problem is, this comes after a lot of other disclosures this week. there was the fbi raid of dr. melgen, the acknowledgement by the senator's office that just last month the senator wrote a personal $58,000 check to dr. melgen to reimburse him for flights that he took on dr. melgen's jet to the dominican republic in 2010 and that the senator had never reported on his financial disclosure form. this had prompted an ethics complaint by new jersey republicans in november, complaint to the senate ethics committee . and then only in january, january 4th of this year -- so just about a month ago -- the senator wrote this personal check to dr. melgen. so all this has created a lot of ethical questions for the senator at a time he's just become chairman of the senate foreign relations committee .
>> okay. pretty powerful position there. people should know in terms of the senate ethic rules that the cutoff i believe is $250 that you have to report these or in the case of a flight that he took these two flights, he'd have to get advance permission to go ahead and do that. he pays them back later. you heard the senator before we got to you. he said that this is all fameless, nameless accusers. is this all political, michael ? which is not a stretch, of course. it is washington after all. what's your take?
>> i think this began -- this was seen by most people initially as potentially at least a political smear. there were allegations that first popped up on a conservative web site that the senator was getting sexual favor favors in the dominican republic with his trips with dr. melgen. no responsible news organization reported those at the time, because there was really no corroboration. but the senator's office this week in trying to fend off reporters kept referring to those allegations. in fact, talked about the allegations about use of a prostitute. prostitutes saying they were part of a political smear, they were false, they were manufactured, they were only reported by a conservative web site . but the problem is in the course of that they had to acknowledge the senator wrote this check to the eye doctor . the eye doctor 's office got raided by the fbi . and now this new information about the superpac donations and the help on the port security contract.
>> you know how this goes. it's all accusations at this point. when they have to issue denials that's when everything starts fomenting and makes it a big story . michael always good to see you.