My senator has been indicted. The schmuck.

By Claire Anderson

(Latino Leaders Network/Flickr)
(Latino Leaders Network/Flickr)

Senator Bob Menendez, of the great state of New Jersey, was charged with taking bribes from Dr. Salomon Melgen in return for political favors. Menendez received lavish gifts including private flights and vacations in Melgen’s Dominican Republic home and Paris. Melgen was rewarded in turn when Menendez influenced the Department of State to pressure the Dominican Republic into give a Melgen-owned company a port security contract and helped Melgen’s girlfriends from overseas get travel visas.

While accepting the lavish gifts is not exactly illegal unless the prosecutor can prove the gifts were in exchange for political favors, it is aggravating and embarrassing for New Jersey. The state is still recovering from the last major political scandal, when Gov. Chris Christie punished the mayor of Fort Lee and the thousands of commuters that rely on the George Washington Bridge to get to work every morning by closing lanes. Aggravating and embarrassing, check. Instead of resigning like a decent human being, Menendez has run around the state professing his innocence and collecting for his legal fund, raising over $200,000 in private contributions by the end of 2014. He is pretty good at this fundraising stuff.

The New Jersey public does not seem phased by the scandal – it’s almost like we expect our politicians to be corrupt. A Rutgers-Eagleton poll found that people see corruption as a major problem in the state, but believe corruption is common and part of the system. The same study found that 58 percent of the public believes Menendez should stay in office unless found guilty. Never mind the fact he will spend most of his time running around trying to save himself instead of fighting his constituents.

Menendez refuses to leave office, arguing he is innocent until proven guilty, a comforting right we all have. But Menendez has already admitted to taking the gifts and violating Senate ethics. He is guilty, and the public knows it. At this point he is just dragging the state through the mud until an eventual verdict.

While everyone’s time could be put to better use solving Jersey’s many problems, Newark still operates under the watchful eyes of the Justice Department after the police department was discovered to be violating people’s, especially African American’s, constitutional rights, or that thousands of people still live in temporary housing two years after Hurricane Sandy.

But it’s OK, because Menendez’s legal problems clearly top everything else.

Claire Anderson is the Opinion and Editorial Producer, and can be reached at [email protected]