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Sen. Bob Menendez may be under federal indictment for bribery, but that isn’t stopping him from fundraising.
Menendez’s leadership political action committee is still planning to hold a fundraising event next month in Puerto Rico with the indicted lawmaker and his chief of staff, according to an email sent this week to potential donors.
The event, benefiting New Millennium PAC, is slated for Oct. 13 and 14 and includes a reception and golf at the Ritz-Carlton Dorado Beach, according to an email shared with Bloomberg Government.
“In light of recent events, I wanted to reach out and confirm that the New Millennium PAC Retreat in Puerto Rico on October 13 & 14 is still taking place,” said the email sent from a professional fundraiser, Gillian Helwig. “Both Senator Menendez & Jason Tuber will be there and are looking forward to seeing you.”
Helwig did not respond to requests for comment. Tuber, who is the senator’s top aide, also did not respond to a request for comment. A spokeswoman for Menendez (D-N.J.) did not respond to a request for comment.
Lawmakers typically use leadership PACs to dole out donations to their colleagues, as a way of making political allies and growing their influence in their party and on Capitol Hill. After leaving office, such funds can be used for nearly anything, including personal expenses like legal fees.
New Millennium PAC had more than $600,000 cash on hand on June 30, according to a disclosure filed with the Federal Election Commission.
The PAC has made numerous donations this year to the coffers of other Senate Democrats and to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Menendez pleaded not guilty Wednesday to federal charges stemming from a political corruption case. His wife, Nadine, also pleaded not guilty to charges.
Menendez declared his innocence today in a 15 minute, closed door meeting with the Senate Democratic caucus, telling them he would not resign. Most Senate Democrats have said he should step down.
He has relinquished the gavel to the Senate Foreign Relations panel.
“The excesses of these prosecutors is apparent,” the senator said in a statement last week when prosecutors made public their indictment. “They have misrepresented the normal work of a Congressional office. On top of that, not content with making false claims against me, they have attacked my wife for the longstanding friendships she had before she and I even met.”
Legal Defense Fund
Menendez’s leadership PAC is not his only fundraising committee. The senator, who is up for reelection in 2024, also has a campaign committee that held $7.8 million on June 30, according to FEC disclosures.
Separately, Menendez set up a legal defense fund this summer. Tuber and several other aides are listed as beneficiaries, as is the senator’s wife. Though it’s not unusual for lawmakers’ aides to benefit from their boss’s legal fund, if they incur legal bills in connection with their roles, some campaign finance experts said listing Menendez’s wife was not typical.
Menendez’s new legal defense fund has not yet had to disclose its donors.
Brett Kappel, of counsel at the firm Harmon Curran, said that it was unusual for a member of Congress and a spouse to be indicted together.
“The Senate Ethics Committee doesn’t have any restrictions on who can be a beneficiary of a legal expense trust – the beneficiaries just have to be named in the trust document,” he said.
Meredith McGehee, a longtime advocate for legislation aimed at reducing the influence of money in politics, said both leadership PACs and legal defense funds offered donors a way to ingratiate themselves with lawmakers free of most campaign finance restrictions.
“The money politicians like best is the money they have pretty much total control over,” she said.
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