How Bob Menendez sponsored a bill that would have benefited his biggest political donor
he disclosure of the legislation that Menendez wanted to push through- that had incentives for natural gas vehicle conversions- is the latest intersection between the New Jersey Democrat who is the subject of an ethics inquiry on Capitol Hill and the Florida doctor involved in a federal criminal investigation.
Dr. Salomon Melgen invested in Gaseous Fuel Systems Corp. of Weston, Florida, and joined its board of directors in early 2010, according to the company’s chief executive and a former company consultant.
GFS designs, manufactures and sells products to convert diesel-fuel fleets to natural gas. The amount of Melgen’s investment is confidential under rules of the Securities and Exchange Commission, but a 2009 document filed with the SEC showed the company required a minimum individual investment at that time of $51,500.
At the same time, Menendez emerged as a principal supporter of a natural gas bill that would boost tax credits and grants to truck and heavy vehicle fleets that converted to alternative fuels.
The bill stalled in the Senate Finance Committee, and after it was revived in 2012, the NAT GAS Act failed to win the needed 60 votes to pass.
While the bill was under consideration between 2009 and 2011, the former consultant for GFS spent $220,000 lobbying Menendez’s staff and other congressional and federal officials on the act’s provisions as well as other regulatory issues, according to interviews and Senate records.
Melgen has been a staunch supporter, giving more than $14,000 directly to Menendez since the late 1990s and, through his eye clinic, donating $700,000 last year to a ‘super’ political committee that supported Democratic Senate candidates. The committee, in turn, spent $582,000 to back Menendez’ campaign.