02/25/2013 07:06 pm ET Updated Feb 25, 2013

Robert Menendez Cites MLK In Ethics Defense

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) this week summoned the words of Martin Luther King Jr. to defend himself against ethics questions involving his friendship with a Florida doctor.

After citing King's famous declaration that "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice," Menendez on Sunday told a crowd gathered for a Black History Month celebration at Shiloh Baptist Church in Trenton, N.J., that he would soon be cleared of the "anonymous, faceless, nameless individuals" that he said are out to destroy his "lifetime of work," according to the Newark Star-Ledger.

"In the end, I believe that justice will overcome the forces of darkness," Menendez said. "Scriptures tell us that he who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God. I have my hand on the plow and I am going to continue to look forward and to work to make that plow lead us to the fulfillment of educational, economic and health care opportunity in this country."

Both the FBI and the Senate Ethics Committee are investigating Menendez's relationship with a Florida eye surgeon and prominent Democratic donor, Dr. Salomon Melgen. The Daily Caller reported in January that two women it didn't name said Menendez paid them for sex at a resort in the Dominican Republic, where Melgen has a home. Menendez has adamantly denied the claims. A Feb. 15 Washington Post report said the FBI had "found no evidence" that Menendez had hired prostitutes for sex.

Menendez, who is divorced, has acknowledged a friendship with Melgen. He reimbursed Melgen $58,500 for the cost of two trips Menendez took on Melgen's private plane to the Dominican Republic in 2010.

A third trip on Melgen's plane to the Dominican Republic in May 2010 was reported to the Federal Election Commission as a fundraising trip, according to Menendez's spokeswoman, Tricia Enright.

The Senate Ethics Committee is investigating Menendez's involvement in helping Melgen in a dispute over Medicare payments. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services found that Melgen overbilled the government by $8.9 million for care at his clinic, according to The Washington Post. Menendez argued to officials at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees Medicare, that Melgen should not be penalized because the government's rules are "vague."

Menendez has not been charged with any wrongdoing. Nevertheless, his popularity has taken a hit. His public approval rating has dropped by 15 percentage points since the start of the investigations, according to a poll released last week.



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