Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez single handedly blocked legislation that would have strengthened regulations against foreign influence and lobbying years before he was charged with foreign and domestic bribery schemes, according to Senate records.
Menendez and his wife were indicted Friday on charges of bribery, extortion and fraud, and he allegedly used his position of power to aid the Egyptian government in exchange for opulent gifts. In 2020, Menendez blocked an improved version of the Foreign Agents Disclosure and Registration Enhancement Act (FARA), a law that would have held foreign agents to higher scrutiny and imposed stricter penalties if they violated lobbying or influence regulations, according to the records. (RELATED: Cascade Of Senate Democrats Call On Robert Menendez To Resign)
“It seems shortsighted to provide additional enforcement tools before we have figured out what that regime should look like,” Menendez said on the Senate floor in 2020.
“The disturbing rise of foreign influence campaigns that use a variety of measures to mask who is the ultimate source or beneficiary should serve as an alarm bell for all of us,” he said. “So before this body passes any tweaks or new tools and adds to the current patchwork of FARA regulations and exemptions, I think we should take a step back and take a comprehensive look, and we have not done that.”
My statement on Senator Robert Menendez. pic.twitter.com/h7WY9EWwUz
— Sen. Cory Booker (@SenBooker) September 26, 2023
The FARA overhaul proposal had received unanimous bipartisan support before it was shot down by Menendez, according to NBC News. Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley noted he was “disappointed” that Menendez had rejected the proposal, according to video posted on C-SPAN.
“It took a lot of work to put together the bill that I asked unanimous consent on,” Grassley said. “I thought that we had taken everything into consideration, particularly bringing together people from the Intelligence community and the Judiciary community.”
“I thought it would be easy to move forward today,” he had said.
Menendez pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to three charges all related to his acceptance of bribes, which included stacks of cash hidden in his home, expensive vehicles, home mortgage payments and gold bars. Menedez temporarily stepped down from his position as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and faces increasing calls from his Democratic colleagues to resign.
Menendez did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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