Friday, April 3, 2015

Bob Menendez: a look back | Commonweal Magazine

Paul Moses covered Robert Menendez when the now-indicted Senator bravely confronted a corrupt mentor.  Today he laments that the Senator has become once of those guys who trades favors for favors.  Whether the luxury flights to the Dominican, or the Super Bowl and other favors for politicians are corrupt depends on how you define corruption.  In the post-Citizens United  age perhaps only a "quid pro quo" counts.  But Moses laments that even if no crime has been committed Robert Menendez is not the man he once was. - gwc
Bob Menendez: a look back | Commonweal Magazine
by Paul Moses
"Back in 2006, I wrote an article in Commonweal that criticized some over-the-top attacks Republicans made on Bob Menendez during his campaign for U.S. Senate in New Jersey. As a young man, Menendez had aided  prosecutors by testifying before a federal grand jury and then at the corruption trial of his mentor, Bill Musto, the mayor of Union City, N.J. and New Jersey’s senior state legislator.
The GOP claimed that for Menendez to have testified, he must have been in cahoots with the mayor, who was convicted in 1982 of racketeering for a scheme to take hundreds of thousands of dollars in payoffs from a construction company that was not-so-secretly controlled by organized crime. The GOP accusation against Menendez was false, as I knew from having covered the investigation from its genesis while a cub reporter at the local paper, The Hudson Dispatch. 

Menendez was among a group of young, up-and-coming politicos who looked up to Musto as a mentor. Musto was  an old-school boss who helped the disadvantaged—the people who lined up outside his office everyday—in very concrete ways (in return for their loyalty). Musto betrayed  Menendez. He put his 24-year-old protégé in charge of the local school board’s finances, and then Musto and some of his long-time supporters proceeded to milk the school system by taking payoffs from a contractor hired to build additions on local high schools. The contractor found the money for bribes by putting in for phony cost overruns on the school job—some three-quarters of a million dollars worth.

 The true nature of Musto’s dealings with the contractor took some time to emerge, but well before that happened, Menendez suspected something was wrong and began to cooperate with FBI agents who came calling. His conduct was exemplary, according to federal prosecutors at that time. It was emotionally difficult for him to turn on his mentor, and dangerous to testify against a construction company that was controlled by organized crime."
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