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While Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., is fighting for his political life following revelations that he and a wealthy donor are under FBI investigation for Dominican Republic trips the senator took on the eye doctor’s private plane as well as accusations he engaged in sex with under-age prostitutes while there, one prominent supporter has been conspicuously silent – his media-star daughter Alicia Menendez, a Democratic Party adviser.
Alicia Menendez is the former co-director of “The Vagina Monologues,” an episodic feminist play comprised of soliloquies read by women dealing with matters including sex, love, rape, menstruation, female genital mutilation, masturbation, birth, orgasm, the various common names for the vagina, or simply as a physical aspect of the body. She is a former Harvard gender studies major who is a host on “Huffpost Live” and a frequent guest on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC.
Known for her outspokenness, even on matters involving her own prominent family, she once wrote that her “gringa” mother claimed to be Dominican in a past life.
Alicia Menendez’s mother, the former Jane Jacobsen, teaches sex education in the Union City school district. She and her former husband were divorced in 2005. The divorce documents are sealed.
Alicia Menendez came to fame for being a feminist. It was her 2005 senior thesis on gender studies that got her media attention; The New York Times and U.S. News & World Report gave her work mentions. The 87-page thesis, “To Whom Many Doors are Still Locked: Gender, Space, and Power, in Harvard Final Clubs,” decried a culture of male domination at the Ivy League school.
“Establishing yourself as a big man on campus is pretty formulaic, but there’s no such woman at Harvard who has done that to a positive capacity [sic],” Menendez told the student newspaper.
“The Harvard campus can be a very lonely place,” she explained. “And meeting beautiful, smart, socially adept women here is not an easy task.”
She was especially critical of Harvard’s men’s clubs, which she says relegated women to being “perpetually guests” on the campus social scene.
The thesis, obtained by WND through Harvard’s library, is focused on the injustice that the women’s clubs don’t have their own building.
“Tired of discussing the inequalities of ownership of space in private forums, it became my objective to examine the role of final club buildings and their implications for the men and women who are a part of the final club community,” she wrote in the introduction to her “ethnographic study.”
She added: “As a woman, as a feminist, as an ethnic minority … I recognize that I am not supposed to be a part of this supposed elitism, but I am,” she wrote.
As for her topic on “gendered power and social space,” she writes, “I did not choose this subject; it chose me.”
The feminist screed about the clubs includes buzzwords and phrases such as “male role models,” “homosocial legacies,” “male privilege,” “single-sex group identification,” “objectification,” and “Lolita fetishism.”
Alicia Menendez continued to write on gender issues after she graduated, ever quick to write on the latest political sex scandal. In 2008 she was fascinated by the prostitution story of former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
“As the updates streamed in, I got a good look at how the story was shaping,” she wrote at the time. “Eliot Spitzer did something very wrong but fairly ordinary: he hired a prostitute. It’s only so extraordinary because of who Eliot Spitzer is and what Eliot Spitzer purports to stand for.”
She remained fascinated by Spitzer’s sex scandal and others, even going so far as to write whimsical online advice for politicians going through them, titled “What to Do When Scandals Hit”:
“Admitting that you’ve done something wrong is the first step. If you’re there, that’s half the battle,” she wrote. After trying to find a true friend, she enumerated a few dos and don’ts. “Don’t give yourself room to lie (any more than you already have). Don’t rely on half truths. And please, please don’t over share.”
That post (and others like it) have been scrubbed from the website that she co-founded. Perhaps she’s trying to follow her own advice offered as a candidate’s daughter in 2008: “The cardinal rule for candidates’ children, whether they choose to hit the campaign trail or not, is the same: Don’t do anything stupid.”
Repeated attempts to reach Alicia Menendez by email and Twitter were unsuccessful.
Bob Menendez was re-elected to a second term in November, and instantly became chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It took his predecessor, John Kerry, 24 years to work his way up to that powerful post. But, at the peak of his celebrity and power, Menendez has spent the last two week embroiled in scandal.
The problem began with his relationship to one of his top donors, Salomon Melgen, a 58-year-old eye surgeon who moved to Florida from the Dominican Republic in 1980.
Melgen and his family have given Menendez, and groups working to help elect Menendez, more than $750,000 in the last two election cycles. Menendez has admitted neglecting to reimburse Melgen for two trips on his private jet to the Dominican Republic in 2010, an “oversight” that Menendez has since rectified. But after the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided Melgen’s Florida practice this week, other questions have surfaced. Though Menendez has distanced himself from Melgen, the Senate Ethics Committee has opened an investigation into several of their ties.
Melgen is being investigated for more than $8 million in Medicare fraud for claiming up to four times the usual worth of a vial of eye medication. Melgen has paid that money back to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid but is looking to reclaim it, saying he followed the guidelines.
Menendez twice in 2009 and 2012 called the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid about Melgen’s case, though he denies lobbying or pressuring the agency on Melgen’s behalf.
Meanwhile, Menendez encouraged Melgen to partner with a former staffer of his, Pedro Pablo Permuy, to buy into a U.S. security company that held a contract to screen cargo coming in from Dominican ports. Some competing business interests have questioned the contract, worth $500 million, because of Melgen’s lack of port security experience. In his capacity at the time as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Menendez pushed the Dominican government to honor the contract and enforce the deal.
A story in the Miami Herald detailed how Melgen often bragged about his cozy relationship with Menendez and used the senator’s name to threaten rivals with IRS audits and Medicare investigations. Melgen himself was not only under investigation for Medicare fraud but records show he owes the IRS $10 million in back taxes.
Meanwhile, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the liberal advocacy group that was the first to learn of prostitution allegations against Sen. Menendez in April 2012, added his name this week to its published list of federal lawmakers facing official investigations into their conduct.
CREW listed Menendez for the first time in its periodically updated report, “Under Investigation,” noting that the Senate Ethics committee is probing him for “accepting gifts from a donor who flew him to the Dominican Republic on a private jet.”
The group did not make mention of an FBI investigation into the New Jersey Democrat, reportedly focusing on the question of whether he engaged in illicit sex with underage prostitutes while in the Caribbean nation.
In a handwritten statement provided last year to a whistleblower, a young prostitute detailed allegations that she slept with Menendez beginning “when I was 16 years old.”
“During [one] visit of Senator Bob Menendez to the Dominican Republic, I had intimate relations with him on more than one occasion,” the unidentified woman wrote, according to a Daily Caller translation. She is the latest of at least six women purported to have engaged in sex for money with Menendez.
Her claim appeared in a Spanish-language testimonial collected by Peter Williams, a tipster who brought a series of similar allegations to light. He emailed CREW in April 2012 with interviews and testimonials he obtained from women he said he had met in the Dominican Republic.
“I met Senator Bob Menendez at Salomon’s house when I was 16 years old,” the anonymous note says, referring to Salomon Melgen, the Florida ophthalmologist and major donor to the senator. Melgen flew Menendez back and forth to the island nation at least three times. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee reimbursed Melgen for one of those trips. Menendez personally paid Melgen for two more with a $58,500 check in January, more than two years after the flights occurred.
“I spent time with him several times, right there in Solomon’s house, and we had intimate relations,” the handwritten account continues. “That was in February and March 2009. I also remember on one occasion the senator participated in one of the yacht outings, to which I went various times with Salomon and other girls.”
The Daily Caller has also reported on related allegations that a yacht owned by Vinicio “Vinicito” Castillo Seman, the scion of a prominent Dominican political family, was the scene of trysts with prostitutes involving both Melgen and Menendez.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has stood by Menendez, saying last week: “I have confidence he did nothing wrong. But that’s what investigations are all about.”
Born in New York City, Menendez is a graduate of Saint Peter's University and Rutgers School of Law in Newark. In 1974 at the age of 20, he was elected to the Union City Board of Education and was elected Mayor of Union City in 1986. While he was mayor, he simultaneously served in the New Jersey Legislature from 1988 to 1992. Menendez resigned from both positions when he was appointed to the New Jersey Senate after state Sen. Christopher Jackman died. He represented New Jersey's 33rd District from 1992 to 1993. In 1992 Menendez ran for the U.S. House of Representatives. He was elected and served six terms, representing New Jersey's 13th congressional district from 1993 to 2006.
In January 2006, he was appointed to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jon Corzine who was elected governor of New Jersey. In March 2010, Corzine was named chairman and CEO of MF Global Inc., a financial services firm specializing in futures brokerage. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in October 2011 after losing $1.6 billion of customer money and Corzine resigned on November 4, 2011. Menendez, meanwhile, was elected to a full six-year term in the 2006 U.S. Senate election and was re-elected in 2012.