Watchdogs: Sen. Bob Menendez’s ties to one-time Miami aide and FBI-probed donor ‘raises eyebrows’

The Miami Herald Contributor
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Even by Washington standards, Sen. Bob Menendez’s ties to a former aide, a South Florida donor and an overseas port deal that could benefit the two looks unusually cozy, ethics watchdogs say.

Menendez’s relationship with Dr. Salomon Melgen drew national scrutiny after federal agents last week raided the West Palm Beach eye clinic of Melgen, the senator’s longtime friend and donor.

Last year, as Melgen poured money into Menendez’s reelection efforts, the New Jersey Democrat advocated for a mammoth Dominican Republic port-security contract held by one of Melgen’s companies, called ICSSI.

A former Menendez aide, one-time Miami resident Pedro Pablo Permuy, is slated to be a top officer for ICSSI, Melgen’s cousin has said.

Permuy also runs a business advocacy group, the United States-Spain Council, which Menendez co-chairs. It’s supported by another Melgen company and a host of well-heeled special interests on Capitol Hill.

“This web of relations raises eyebrows,” said Meredith McGehee, policy director for the Washington-based nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center.