Robert Menendez, Senator, Civil Rights Activist   Leave a comment

RobertBobMenendez (born January 1, 1954) is the junior United States Senator from New Jersey and a member of the Democratic Party. In January 2006, he was appointed to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jon Corzine, who resigned upon being elected Governor of New Jersey. Menendez was elected to his own full six-year term in the 2006 U.S. Senate election.

Prior to his appointment to the U.S. Senate, Menendez was a member of the United States House of Representatives, representing New Jersey’s 13th congressional district. He previously served as Mayor of Union City (1986–1992) and as a member of the New Jersey General Assembly and the New Jersey Senate.

Following the 2008 elections, Menendez was appointed to head the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.[1]

  Early life, education, and law career

Bob Menendez was born on New Year’s Day in New York City to Cuban immigrants[2] who left their homeland a few months earlier, in 1953, seeking economic and political freedom from the repressive government headed by Fulgencio Batista.[3] His father, Mario Menendez, was a mechanic, and his mother, Evangelina, a seamstress.[4] The family subsequently moved to neighboring New Jersey where, growing up in Union City, he graduated from Union Hill High School.

After a B.A. from Saint Peter’s College in Jersey City, he earned his Juris Doctor degree from Rutgers School of Law in Newark. in 1979. He is a brother of Lambda Theta Phi fraternity.[5][6] He was admitted to the New Jersey Bar in 1980 and became a lawyer in private practice.

  Early political career

In 1973, at age 19, while attending Saint Peter’s College in Jersey City, he launched a successful petition drive against his mentor, then-Union City Mayor William Musto, to reform the local school board. He was elected to the Union City Board of Education in 1974. He would stay close to Musto throughout the 1970s, however, and supported Musto in his re-election to the New Jersey Senate in 1978. Menendez would later testify against Musto in a court case that resulted in a prison sentence for Musto. The trial was very controversial, and Musto declared his innocence for the rest of his life.

Menendez was elected mayor of Union City in 1986 after an unsuccessful run against the popular Musto in 1982. Menendez served as mayor until 1992. While mayor, he simultaneously served in the New Jersey Legislature, a common practice for New Jersey politicians. He was in the General Assembly from 1987 until 1991 and in the New Jersey Senate from 1991 to 1993, following the death of Christopher Jackman.[7]

 United States House of Representatives

Menendez as a Congressman

In 1992, 14th District Congressman Frank Guarini retired after seven terms. Menendez won the Democratic nomination for the Jersey City-based district, which was renumbered the 13th after New Jersey lost a district in the 1990 Census, and was easily elected that November. The district was already heavily Democratic, but had been redrawn with a Hispanic majority after the 1990 census. He was reelected six times with no significant Republican opposition.

In 1996, Menendez was briefly a candidate in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate seat held by the retiring Bill Bradley, but he backed out and the seat was won by Democrat Robert Torricelli. In 2002 Menendez voted against the Iraq Resolution to authorize the invasion of Iraq.[8]

In 2003, Menendez was elected chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, ranking him third in the Democratic hierarchy in the house, behind House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland. He was elected to chair the Credentials Committee of the 2004 Democratic National Convention and was a speaker on the first day of the convention. During the 107th Congress, he was chair of the Democratic Task Force on Education and the Democratic Task Force on Homeland Security.

Although he had sometimes been portrayed as the political boss of Hudson County, he strongly dislikes this appellation, particularly because, according to an anonymous close source quoted in the December 11, 2005 Union City Reporter, “there is no boss of Hudson County”.[9]

[edit] United States Senate

Congressman Robert Menendez spoke on the importance of small businesses in the U.S. economy in Texas.

In December 2005, Menendez was appointed by Jon Corzine to fill the remaining year in the Senate seat from which Corzine resigned upon being elected the previous month as Governor of New Jersey. While several other names had been mentioned, Menendez was the early favorite among pundits for Governor-elect Corzine’s replacement to fill the vacancy that would be created when Corzine resigned from the Senate. Corzine’s decision to appoint Menendez got the support of several Latino groups, including the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. Menendez was the sixth Latino to serve in the United States Senate.


Main article: United States Senate election in New Jersey, 2006

In the midterm elections held November 7, 2006, near the end of his one-year appointment, Menendez successfully ran to retain his seat in the Senate. He defeated Republican Thomas Kean, Jr., current minority whip in the New Jersey Senate and son of former state governor Thomas Kean, with 53% of the vote to Kean’s 45%.

Menendez was endorsed by several newspapers including The New York Times,[10] The Philadelphia Inquirer,[11] The Star-Ledger,[12] and The Record.[13]

On August 27, 2006, two Republican state lawmakers filed an ethics complaint against Menendez, alleging he broke conflict-of-interest rules when he rented property out to a nonprofit agency that receives federal funds. Menendez helped the organization win designation as a Federally Qualified Health Center in 1998. That designation allowed the agency to receive additional federal grants.[14] Menendez allies note that the organization in question, the North Hudson Community Action Corp., which provides social services and health care to the poor and was founded in 1960, had received federal funding for years before Menendez was in Congress, and receives its funding based on mathematical formulas.[15] Menendez maintains that he rented the property out below market-value because “he was supportive of its work”.[16] The total rent collected over nine years was over $300,000.

In September, 2006, just a few weeks before the 2006 senate elections, the Republican US District Attorney began investigating the rental deal with NHCAC, subpoenaing records from them. Democrats criticized the investigation, particularly the timing of the investigation and news leaks as being politically motivated. To date, no charges have been brought and the accusations remain unsubstantiated, one of many in the so-called US Attorneys scandal.[17]

Main article: United States Senate election in New Jersey, 2012

Menendez is running for re-election a full second term.


On February 9, 2010, the Wall Street Journal obtained a copy of a letter [18] from Senator Menendez to the Federal Reserve pushing for approval of a deal for the sale of First BankAmericano of Elizabeth. [19] A media controversy arose due to BankAmericano’s political connections. Its board members included several major campaign contributors to Menendez — among them state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union)[20], a powerful member of the New Jersey Legislature. First BankAmericano had been under financial pressure for more than a year because of mounting loan losses. A highly critical report by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. also found the institution had engaged in unsafe or unsound banking practices, including operating without adequate supervision by its board of directors, an excessive level of delinquent or bad loans, inadequate earnings and insufficient coverage of its assets. [21]

In 2009, Menendez succeeded Senator Chuck Schumer of New York as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Menendez’s tenure, which has followed two straight election cycles of dramatic Democratic gains, has been marked by more troubled Democratic outlook. Critics of Menendez have pointed out the surprising Democratic loss in the 2010 Massachusetts Senate special election that followed the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy; Menendez’s lower-key, more cautious management style; and Democratic problems caused by retirements in Indiana and elsewhere. Others, such as Schumer, have defended Menendez’s performance, citing the political climate.[22]

Menendez (second from right) marching in the North Hudson Cuban Day Parade with Union City Mayor Brian P. Stack (second from left), June 6, 2010.

In February 2006, Menendez cosponsored legislation with New York Senator Hillary Clinton to make it illegal for foreign governments to buy U.S. port operations. The legislation was a direct response to Dubai Ports World‘s efforts to purchase Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O) of the United Kingdom, which operates six major U.S. ports. Menendez said, “Our ports are the front lines of the war on terrorism. They are both vulnerable targets for attack and venues for smuggling and human trafficking. We wouldn’t turn the Border Patrol or the Customs Service over to a foreign government, and we can’t afford to turn our ports over to one either.”[23]

On September 28, 2006 Menendez voted for the Military Commissions Act.[24]

On June 12, 2007, Menendez endorsed Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid and was given the position of National Campaign Co-Chair. Subsequently he made numerous media appearances voicing his support for her campaign.[25]

On April 25, 2008, a former undercover F.B.I. agent revealed in the book Ruse: Undercover with FBI Counterintelligence that Cuban diplomats approached Robert Eringer to investigate Menendez. It was suggested that the Cuban government was determined to generate scandalous information about the senator, along with Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln Diaz-Balart, because of their anti-Castro lobbying efforts.[26]

In October 2009, Menendez sent a strongly worded letter of protest to Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias, castigating him for his praise of Cuba’s totalitarian system. Christofias, the leader of AKEL, Cyprus’ Communist Party, since 1988 and president since 2008, had paid a state visit to Cuba in September 2009 for the opening of Cyprus’ new embassy and, in his speech, made a number of anti-American embargo references, and spoke of the “common struggle of Cyprus and Cuba”. In his letter to Christofias, Menendez said “you cannot claim human rights violations by Turkey in your country and then ignore such violations in Cuba. Second, you cannot call for property rights for Greek Cypriots and then deny them on Cuba. Finally, you cannot take issue with the militarization of northern Cyprus and then ignore the state security apparatus that oppresses the Cuban people.”[27][28]

On December 18, 2011, Menendez came out in support of the Respect for Marriage Act. He voted for the Defense of Marriage Act as a congressman in 1996.[29]

  Recall initiative

An effort to recall Senator Menendez was launched in early 2010 by a group of New Jersey citizens.[30] Although Article 1, Paragraph 2(b) of the New Jersey Constitution expressly authorizes such a recall,[31] state officials fought the effort in court.[32] On March 16, 2010, a State Appeals court ruled that the recall petition could go forward.[33] Menendez said he was surprised that a group claiming to be true to the Constitution is trying now, in his words, “to undermine it”.[34] Menendez appealed the ruling.[35] Legal experts have debated the constitutionality of a state recall of a federal officeholder.[36][37] On November 18, 2010, the New Jersey Supreme Court found that the New Jersey provision violated the U.S. Constitution.[38]



Posted March 3, 2012 by pennylibertygbow in Politicians

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