Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) has been implicated in yet another scandal, this time for reportedly seeking a $50,000 campaign contribution kickback for helping a real estate giant obtain permit approval.
The company, Mills Corp., was competing for a permit to build an East Rutherford, N.J., mall, and stood to lose $1 million for each month the permit was delayed, reported the North Jersey Record.
Mills Corp. hired Kay LiCausi as its lobbyist for the project, who had previously worked on Menendez's staff and was said to have previously been romantically involved with Menendez.
"It was her relationship with Menendez that we thought she might be helpful with," Jim Dausch, a former Mills Corp. executive, testified before a grand jury in 2008, "because he was one of the highest-ranking Democrats in the congressional delegation down there and we wanted to make sure that...he didn't weigh in against us with the feds and that if we could get his support that we would ask him to help us make sure those decisions were made in a timely way."
LiCausi arranged a meeting at Menendez's district office, and shortly after, the lawmaker supposedly contacted officials at the Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency about the status of the permit.
"I was aware that he checked with EPA just to see whether or not they were going to go along with our opponents," Dausch testified, the North Jersey Record reported.
"And I remember that he made a call - now I can't remember to who, whether it was to the Newark office of the corps or to the corps in Washington, to inquire about when this permit decision was going to get made."
Then something extremely unusual happened that struck a chord with Dausch: His company was granted a the permit, which was hand-delivered by the head of the New York office of the Corps of Engineers.
Two months later, either Menendez or someone working on his behalf contacted Mills Corp. asking for a $50,000 campaign contribution, according to Dausch, who said he couldn't remember if it was Menendez himself who requested the contribution.
"But one way or the other, it was clear that the request was coming from Menendez and, and it was in anticipation, we understood, of a run that he was planning to make for the Senate in 2006," he noted.
Federal Election Commission filings showed that by Sept. 2005, Mills Corp. employees or their families had contributed $20,000 to Menendez's campaign.
The Army Corps of Engineers official who hand-delivered the permit to Dausch, Col. Richard Polo, told The Record that the decision was not at all influenced by politics.