WASHINGTON – Some of the most powerful political insiders on the right and left – including Republican kingmaker Sheldon Adelson and South Jersey Democratic potentate George Norcross -- helped Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) raise nearly $1.6 million for his legal defense fund in the last quarter.
The total, $1.557 million according to the senator's aides, would be a decent total for a Senate candidate facing re-election. For Menendez, the money will help him pay for the costs of his defense against federal corruption charges. He has repeatedly said he followed the law and will be vindicated, but the defense is expensive. Menendez spent about $867,000 from April through June, mostly on lawyers.
He had $1.1 million left on hand as of June 30, a spokeswoman said.
Adelson, who has spent heavily to support Republicans and Israel, gave Menendez $10,000, the most allowed in a year. So did his wife. Menendez is known as one of Israel's most fierce advocates in Congress.
Norcross also gave $10,000, as did his brother, attorney Philip Norcross, and the law firm of a close ally, William Tambussi. In South Jersey political circles, another Norcross brother, Rep. Donald Norcross (D., N.J.), is seen as a potential senate candidate down the line, perhaps if Menendez one day steps down, though few foresee him walking away anytime soon.
Menendez faces charges of using his office to improperly help a friend and donor, Salomon Melgen, who allegedly plied the senator with free flights, vacation stays and more.
Democrats throughout the state say they see little pressure for Menendez to quit: he withstood the initial burst of bad press after the indictment earlier this year, and he won't face re-election until 2018. Menendez has vowed to stay and fight.
"Today's report reaffirms the broad, deep and unwavering support the Senator has in New Jersey and across the country from those who know him, who share his longstanding beliefs on critical issues, and who want him to continue to fight for those beliefs and on their behalf," said Michael Soliman, one of the senator's close advisers.
Philip Murphy, a New Jersey Democrat considering a run for governor, gave $5,000.
Support also came from Cuban-Americans, another constituency Menendez has vocally represented in Congress. Cristina Diaz-Balart, wife of former Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, a Florida Republican, gave $10,000. The Diaz-Balart family, which includes current Congressman Mario (also a Florida Republican) and MSNBC host Jose, is among the most prominent in Cuban-American politics. Menendez has forcefully opposed moves to ease relations with Cuba.
While he has been raising money for his defense fund since early 2014, this report is the first since Menendez was indicted. As the charges were unveiled, he launched an aggressive fund-raising campaign hoping to capitalize on his support within New Jersey, and from the Hispanic and Jewish communities.