WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — To some, Dr. Salomon Melgen was a miracle worker who brought sight to the blind. To others, he was a smooth political player known for rubbing elbows and jet-setting.
Whichever version of Melgen roused the interest of the FBI, which raided his offices this week, their investigation has illuminated the surgeon’s ability to build ties to a host of Democratic lawmakers.
Foremost among them is Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, whose friendship with Melgen has yielded fundraisers, campaign contributions and trips on a private plane. Menendez said this week he did nothing wrong, and flatly denied allegations reported by The Daily Caller, a conservative website, that he traveled on Melgen’s plane to the Dominican Republic for sex with prostitutes.
Though facts remain piecemeal, a fuller portrait of Melgen has emerged. There are photos of the beaming doctor sandwiched between Menendez and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a trail of checks written to politicians and a web of business interests that apparently fueled his wealth.
Melgen, 58, is a native of the Dominican Republic who has lived in the U.S. since at least 1980, holding medical posts around the country while building a reputation as a top ophthalmologist. He has a wife and two children.
Calls to his home and office were not answered, but his attorney has said he did nothing wrong.
Last year, Melgen’s practice gave $700,000 to Majority PAC, a super political action committee set up to fund Democratic candidates for Senate. Aided by Melgen’s donation, the super PAC became the largest outside political committee contributing to Menendez’s re-election, spending more than $582,000 on the senator’s behalf, according to federal election records.