Obama, Reid dragged into evolving Menendez donor scandal

Vince Coglianese Editorial Director
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The wealthy Florida eye doctor at the center of a scandal-laden relationship with Sen. Bob Menendez has also made moves to curry favor with President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Dr. Salomon Melgen paid $30,400 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2010 — when Menendez was chairman — to co-sponsor a fundraiser attended by Obama. During the DC-area event last summer, according to a Tuesday evening report by Politico, Melgen posed for multiple photos with the president and attempted to chat with him.

But according to a source familiar with the event who spoke with Politico, Melgen was upset that Obama didn’t seem too interested in chatting. “He went up to talk to him, and he felt very slighted by the president. He was pretty angry,” the source told Politico. Politico published two photos of Obama with Melgen.

The site also reports that Melgen, on at least one occasion, flew Reid from Washington to Boston for a super PAC event on the doctor’s private jet. Majority PAC reimbursed Melgen $4,160 for the trip, Politico notes. Reid’s office insists the trip and reimbursement were legitimate.

Melgen’s support for Majority PAC — which focuses on assisting Democratic Senate candidates — amounted to $700,000 last year, with $582,500 of that being spent on Menendez.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has also posed for photos with Melgen. A picture appearing on Melgen’s own Latino news site, Voxxi, shows Melgen posing with Menendez and Pelosi for a photo during a February 2012 Washington gala for the National Association of Latino Elected Officials.

Melgen’s relationship with Menendez has been the subject of scrutiny over the last six months over the senator’s failure to reimburse private flights, allegations involving Dominican prostitutes, and the extent to which Menendez used his office to influence highly lucrative business deals for his friend.

That scrutiny includes investigations into the pair’s dealings by the Senate Ethics Committee, the FBI and a grand jury.

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