WASHINGTON (AP) - Sen. Robert Menendez sponsored legislation with incentives for natural gas vehicle conversions that would benefit the biggest political donor to his re-election, the same eye doctor whose private jet Menendez used for two personal trips to the Dominican Republic, an Associated Press investigation found.
The disclosure reflects the latest intersection between the New Jersey Democrat who is the subject of an ethics inquiry on Capitol Hill and the Florida doctor involved in a federal criminal investigation.
Dr. Salomon Melgen invested in Gaseous Fuel Systems Corp. of Weston, Fla., and joined its board of directors in early 2010, according to the company's chief executive and a former company consultant. GFS, as the company is known, designs, manufactures and sells products to convert diesel-fuel fleets to natural gas. The amount of Melgen's investment is confidential under rules of the Securities and Exchange Commission, but a 2009 document filed with the SEC showed the company required a minimum individual investment at that time of $51,500....
In recent weeks, Menendez has acknowledged other dealings with Melgen. Menendez was compelled to reimburse $58,000 for two flights aboard Melgen's private jet that he had previously failed to report, prompting scrutiny by the Senate Ethics Committee. Menendez also acknowledged that his office had contacted U.S. health agencies in 2009 and 2012 to question their billing practices and policies amid a dispute between Melgen, an eye specialist, and federal health authorities. FBI agents in January searched Melgen's offices in Florida and seized files as part of a criminal investigation.
Menendez also raised concerns last year with State and Commerce Department officials about the Dominican Republic's reluctance to enforce a port security contract with a company that Melgen partly owns.