In papers across New Jersey today the news of the now opened federal investigation into the corruption issues of Robert Menendez are drawing sharp comparisons to the candidacy of Robert Torricelli from four years ago.
Writing in the New York Post, Eric Fettman: JERSEY'S SENATE FIGHT:NERVOUS DEMS
News broke last Friday of a federal investigation into Menendez's finances. Over a period of nearly nine years, Menendez collected $329,353 in rent for what's been described as a "shabby" three-story rowhouse he owns in Union City.
Problem is, the rent came from the North Hudson Community Action Corp., an anti-poverty agency - and, even as he was the group's landlord, then-Rep. Menendez was muscling the federal Department of Health and Human Services to list the outfit as a federally qualified health center.
That designation has allowed the agency to rake in $9.6 million in federal HHS grants since 1998 - indeed, Washington now covers 64 percent of its yearly budget. And grateful NHCAC employees and officials have given thousands to Menendez's campaigns.
As for the building, Menendez sold it in 2003 for $405,000 - a 440 percent profit over what he paid for it two decades before.
Now comes reports that U.S. Attorney Chris Christie - who has won bipartisan praise for his anti-corruption prosecutions - has subpoenaed NHCAC's financial records.
Writing in the New York Observer, Steve Kornacki: JERSEY TURNS DEMS PANIC
Likewise, Mr. Menendez has struggled to connect with the public the way an incumbent Democrat should in a blue state—especially in a year when the national climate is so favorable to his party. When a poll was released earlier this month—before news of the investigation broke—that placed Mr. Menendez five points behind his Republican challenger, State Senator Tom Kean Jr., he joined Mr. Torricelli as one of only two New Jersey Democrats in the last 34 years to trail in a Senate race in September.
And in New Jersey papers from one end of the state to the other:
The week after his campaign was shaken by news of a federal investigation related to a property the senator once rented to a non-profit group, the ad signaled two of Menendez's strengths in the close Senate contest. He has raised more than three times as much money as Kean, giving him an advertising advantage. And he can run against an unpopular Republican president.
A Kean spokeswoman said the Democrat would not be able to distract voters from the character issue.
"The bottom line is that Bob Menendez's ties to corruption are too substantial for him to dismiss with expensive TV ads on an issue where he has no credibility," said the spokeswoman, Jill Hazelbaker.
It is abundantly clear that the campaign of Robert Menendez which was falling behind by as many as five points before any of these specifics had emerged is now having to go on complete defense - and THAT is going to make it difficult for a proactive message of any sort to be put forward.
The DEMS in NJ may attempt to do what they did four years ago - but even if they do (in illegally placing a substitution on the ballot) it is important to not allow that to matter - and one way you CAN and NEED to make a difference here is in ponying up some monies for TOM KEAN for U.S. SENATE.
Just do it!