|United States Senator
from New Jersey
January 17, 2006
Serving with Cory Booker
|Preceded by||Jon Corzine|
|Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations|
February 1, 2013
|Preceded by||John Kerry|
|Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus|
January 3, 2003 – January 16, 2006
|Preceded by||Martin Frost|
|Succeeded by||Jim Clyburn|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New Jersey's 13th district
January 3, 1993 – January 16, 2006
|Preceded by||Frank Guarini|
|Succeeded by||Albio Sires|
|Member of the New Jersey Senate
from the 33rd district
March 4, 1991 – January 3, 1993
|Preceded by||Christopher Jackman|
|Succeeded by||Bernard Kenny|
|Member of the New Jersey General Assembly
from the 33rd district
January 12, 1988 – March 4, 1991
|Preceded by||Jose Arango|
|Succeeded by||Louis Romano|
|Mayor of Union City|
|Preceded by||Arthur Wichert|
|Succeeded by||Bruce Walter|
January 1, 1954
New York City, New York, United States
|Spouse(s)||Jane Jacobsen Menendez (m. 1976, div. 2005)|
|Children||Alicia Menendez (b. ~1983)
Robert Menendez, Jr. (b. ~1985)
|Residence||Paramus, New Jersey|
|Alma mater||Saint Peter's College (B.A.)
Rutgers School of Law in Newark (J.D.)
Robert "Bob" Menendez (born January 1, 1954) is the senior United States Senator from New Jersey. He is a member of the Democratic party. First appointed to the Senate in January 2006, he was elected Chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in January 2013.
In 1974, at the age of 20, he was elected to the Union City Board of Education and, in 1986, won the election for mayor of Union City. In 1988, while continuing to serve as mayor, he was elected to represent the state's 33rd district in New Jersey General Assembly and, within three years, moved to the New Jersey Senate, upon winning the March 1991 special election for the 33rd Senate district. In 1992, he won a seat in Congress and represented New Jersey's 13th congressional district for six terms, from 1993 to 2006. In January 2006, he was appointed to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jon Corzine, and was elected to a full six-year term in November and re-elected in 2012.
- 1 Early life, education, and law career
- 2 Early political career (1986–1993)
- 3 U.S. House of Representatives (1993–2006)
- 4 U.S. Senate (2006–present)
- 5 Awards and honors
- 6 Controversies
- 7 Personal life
- 8 Electoral history
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Early life, education, and law career
Bob Menendez was born on January 1, 1954 in New York City to Cuban immigrants who had left Cuba a few months earlier, in late 1953. His father, Mario Menéndez, was a carpenter, and his mother, Evangelina, a seamstress. The family subsequently moved to neighboring New Jersey where he grew up in a tenement in Union City. He attended Union Hill High School, where his speech teacher, Gail Harper, helped the introverted Menendez emerge as a powerful public speaker. Menendez explains, "My mother and Miss Harper made me understand the power of education, what it means to put a premium on learning and working hard." While at Union Hill, Menendez became the student body president. He went on to become the first in his family to go to college, attending Saint Peter's College in Jersey City, where he became a member of the Lambda Theta Phi fraternity. He graduated with a B.A. in political science, and subsequently earned his Juris Doctor degree from Newark's Rutgers School of Law in 1979. He was admitted to the New Jersey Bar in 1980 and became a lawyer in private practice.
Early political career (1986–1993)
In 1973, at age 19, while attending Saint Peter's College in Jersey City, he launched a successful petition drive against his mentor, then-Union City Mayor William Musto, to reform the local school board. He was elected to the Union City Board of Education in 1974, the youngest ever to do so. He did, nevertheless, stay close to Musto throughout the 1970s and supported him in Musto's re-election to the New Jersey Senate in 1978.
Menendez was elected mayor of Union City, the state's 13th most populous locality, in 1986 after an unsuccessful run against the popular Musto in 1982. Menendez served as mayor until 1992 and, following election, in November 1987, to represent the state's 33rd district in General Assembly, continued to fulfill both elective offices until March 1991, when he moved from the General Assembly's 33rd district to the New Jersey Senate's 33rd district, upon winning the special election called following the death of State Senator Christopher Jackman.
U.S. House of Representatives (1993–2006)
In 1992, incumbent Democratic U.S. Congressman Frank Guarini, of New Jersey's 14th congressional district, decided to retire after redistricting. The district had been renumbered as the 13th district, and reconfigured as a Latino-majority district. Menendez decided to run in the primary—the real contest in this heavily Democratic district—and defeated Robert Haney Jr. in the Democratic primary 68%–32%. He won the general election with 64% of the vote, defeating New Jersey Superior Court Judge Fred J. Theemling, Jr. in the general election. After that, he won re-election every two years with at least 71% of the vote until he was appointed to the U.S. Senate in January 2006.
Menendez, who is described as very close to Republicans on foreign policy voted for the failed Kosovo Resolution, authorizing the use of military force against Yugoslavia in the Kosovo War. He was an early advocate of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear capabilities, sponsoring the Iran Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Act of 1998, which passed the House, but failed to pass in the Senate.
Menendez voted in favor of Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists, authorizing the President the use of military force in Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks. In 2002, Menendez voted against the Iraq Resolution to authorize the invasion of Iraq.
Menendez voted against the United Nations Reform Act of 2005, cutting U.S. funding to the United Nations by 50% over 3 years, and was a sponsor of the Tsunami Orphans and Unaccompanied Children Act of 2005 to provide assistance to victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.
In the 105th Congress, Menendez voted in favor of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, repealing provisions of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, repealing provisions that limited Investment banks from acquiring Insurance companies or other Commercial banks, and voted in favor of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000. After the 2001 Enron scandal, Menendez voted with 333 other members of the House in favor of the Sarbanes–Oxley Act.
U.S. Senate (2006–present)
In January 2006, Menendez was appointed by Governor Jon Corzine to fill the remaining year in the Senate seat from which Corzine resigned upon being elected the previous month as Governor of New Jersey. While several other names had been mentioned, Menendez was the early favorite among pundits for Governor-elect Corzine's replacement to fill the vacancy that would be created when Corzine resigned from the Senate. Corzine's decision to appoint Menendez got the support of several Latino groups, including the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. Menendez was the sixth Latino to serve in the United States Senate.
When incumbent Democrat U.S. Senator Bill Bradley decided to retire in August 1995, Menendez made known his intention to run in the November 1996 election for the seat, but eventually dropped out of the race and endorsed Robert Torricelli, the Democrat representing New Jersey's 9th congressional district. Similarly, in 1999, when the state's other U.S. Senator, Democrat Frank Lautenberg, also announced his planned retirement, Menendez again decided not to run, with the Democratic nomination for the November 2000 race ultimately going to Goldman Sachs CEO Jon Corzine who won the general election.
In the midterm elections held November 7, 2006, near the end of his one-year appointment, Menendez ran to retain his seat in the Senate. He defeated Republican Thomas Kean, Jr., incumbent minority whip in the New Jersey Senate and son of former state governor Thomas Kean, with 53% of the vote to Kean's 45%.
Menendez ran for re-election for a full second term and defeated Republican Joe Kyrillos on November 6, 2012.
- Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
- Committee on Finance
- Committee on Foreign Relations (Chairman)
- As chair of the full committee, Sen. Menendez is an ex officio member of all subcommittees
- Armenian Caucus
- Congressional Autism Caucus
- International Conservation Caucus
- Human Rights Caucus
- Narcotics Abuse and Control Caucus
In February 2006, Menendez cosponsored legislation with New York Senator Hillary Clinton to make it illegal for foreign governments to buy U.S. port operations. The legislation was a direct response to Dubai Ports World's efforts to purchase Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O) of the United Kingdom, which operates six major U.S. ports. Menendez said, "Our ports are the front lines of the war on terrorism. They are both vulnerable targets for attack and venues for smuggling and human trafficking. We wouldn't turn the Border Patrol or the Customs Service over to a foreign government, and we can't afford to turn our ports over to one either."
On June 12, 2007, Menendez endorsed Hillary Clinton's presidential bid and was given the position of National Campaign Co-Chair. Subsequently he made numerous media appearances voicing his support for her campaign.
On April 25, 2008, a former undercover F.B.I. agent revealed in the book Ruse: Undercover with FBI Counterintelligence that Cuban diplomats approached freelance blogger and journalist Robert Eringer to investigate Menendez. It was suggested that the Cuban government was determined to generate derogatory information about the senator, along with Florida Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln Diaz-Balart, because of their anti-Castro lobbying efforts.
In 2009, Menendez succeeded Senator Chuck Schumer of New York as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Menendez's tenure, which has followed two straight election cycles of dramatic Democratic gains, has been marked by more troubled Democratic outlook. Critics of Menendez have pointed out the surprising Democratic loss in the 2010 Massachusetts Senate special election that followed the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy; Menendez's lower-key, more cautious management style; and Democratic problems caused by retirements in Indiana and elsewhere. Others, such as Schumer, have defended Menendez's performance, citing the negative political climate.
In October 2009, Menendez sent a strongly worded letter of protest to Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias, castigating him for his praise of Cuba's totalitarian system. Christofias, the leader of AKEL, Cyprus's Communist Party, from 1988 to 2009 and president from 2008 to 2013, had paid a state visit to Cuba in September 2009 for the opening of Cyprus's new embassy and, in his speech, made a number of anti-American embargo references, and spoke of the "common struggle of Cyprus and Cuba". In his letter to Christofias, Menendez stated "you cannot claim human rights violations by Turkey in your country and then ignore such violations in Cuba. Second, you cannot call for property rights for Greek Cypriots and then deny them on Cuba. Finally, you cannot take issue with the militarization of northern Cyprus and then ignore the state security apparatus that oppresses the Cuban people."
Senator Menendez is an "aggressive advocate" of immigration reform, calling it the "civil rights issue of our time." Menendez had introduced multiple pieces of legislation in attempts to overhaul what Menendez calls our "failed immigration system." Menendez introduced the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2011. It was seen as a sweeping overhaul of the U.S. Immigration System; the 697-page bill died in the Senate Judiciary Committee. In 2009 he introduced the Orphans, Widows, and Widowers Protection Act, granting a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented widowers and orphans of deceased U.S. Citizens.
Menendez is a strong supporter of the DREAM Act, saying that, "Children should not be punished for the actions of their parents. These kids have grown up as Americans, worked hard in school and now they want to serve our country in the military or pursue a college education. This is the only home many of them have known and they should be encouraged to pursue the American dream." He voted for the DREAM Act in 2007 and was a cosponsor along with 31 other members of the Senate in the Act's failed passage in 2010.
Menendez has been a supporter of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006, and Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007, voting for both bills. Menendez voted against Senate Amendment 1151, declaring English as the national language of the Federal government of the United States.
Menendez voted against denying legal status to undocumented citizens convicted of domestic violence, crimes against children and crimes relating to the illegal purchase or sale of firearms, but voted in favor of establishing a six-month to twenty-year ban for undocumented immigrants seeking citizenship who had been convicted for the same crimes along with of obstruction of justice, human trafficking and the participation of criminal gang activity.
He voted for the Secure Fence Act of 2006, building 700 miles (1,100 km) of physical barriers and expanding surveillance at the Mexico-United States border, and was a supporter of Senate Amendment 4775, a provision Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2007 which would have appropriated $1.8 billion for the construction of 370 miles (600 km) of triple-layered fencing, and 461 miles (742 km) of vehicle barriers along parts of the Southwest.
Menendez had introduced legislation that would give incentives for the conversion of vehicles to run on natural gas; the bill did not make it out of committee in its first incarnation, and failed to receive 60 votes required to pass in 2012.
On January 28, 2013, Menendez was a member of a bi-partisan group of eight Senators which announced principles for comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). Menendez was recognized in 2014 by the National Council of La Raza for his work in supporting immigration reform as a member of the "Gang of Eight."
Menendez voted for the Defense of Marriage Act as a congressman in 1996; on December 18, 2011, he came out in support, and is a cosponsor, of the Respect for Marriage Act, repealing DOMA. Menendez also voted for the U.S. Military's Don't ask, don't tell as a congressman, and was a cosponsor DADT repeal act in 2010.
On the issue of gay rights Menendez said "Two people who want to be committed to each other should be able to enter into marriage, and they should receive the benefits that flow from that commitment."
Menendez has also sponsored the Student Non-Discrimination Act, expanding Title IX of the Education Amendments Act to LGBT students, and the Safe Schools Improvement Act of 2011 which would also amend the Higher Education Act of 1965. Menendez voted for the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009 saying that; "When someone is harassed, assaulted or killed simply because of the type of person they are, it’s a crime against an entire community and our nation’s values."  In 2012 Menendez received a 94% rating from the Human Rights Campaign.
Menendez became chairman of the prestigious Foreign Relations committee following John Kerry's confirmation as Secretary of State in January 2013.
- Organization of American States Revitalization and Reform Act of 2013 (S. 793; 113th Congress) – Menendez introduced this bill on April 24, 2013. The bill would require the Secretary of State to develop a multiyear strategy to bolster the Organization of American States (OAS) and improve the OAS’s processes for managing its budget and personnel. The act would require the Secretary to provide quarterly briefings to the Congress on the progress of implementing that strategy.
- Support for United States-Republic of Korea Civil Nuclear Cooperation Act – Menendez introduced this bill that would authorize the President to extend the term of the "Agreement for Cooperation between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Korea Concerning Civil Uses of Atomic Energy" to a date no later than March 19, 2016. The bill passed the Senate on January 27, 2014 and the House on January 28, 2014.
Awards and honors
In December 2013 the town of West New York, New Jersey (which borders his childhood home of Union City to the north) honored Menendez by renaming its School No. 3 after him. The renaming of the elementary school was celebrated with a December 4, 2013 ceremony at that school at which city, county, state and federal dignitaries were present.
||This article's Criticism or Controversy section may compromise the article's neutral point of view of the subject. (March 2013)|
Menendez testified against William Musto in a court case that resulted in a prison sentence for Musto. The trial generated considerable controversy; Menendez told reporters that he had to wear a "bullet-proof vest to the trial".
Although he had sometimes been portrayed as the political boss of Hudson County, he strongly dislikes this appellation, particularly because, according to an anonymous close source quoted in the December 11, 2005 Union City Reporter, "there is no boss of Hudson County". In 2005 a New York Times Op-Ed characterized Menendez by stating, "Since entering politics as a corruption-fighting mayor of Union City, N.J., Mr. Menendez has become a proponent of business as usual. He has long been an entrenched de facto leader of the Hudson County Democratic machine."
On August 27, 2006, two Republican state lawmakers filed an ethics complaint against Menendez, alleging he broke conflict-of-interest rules when he rented property out to a nonprofit agency that receives federal funds. Menendez helped the organization win designation as a Federally Qualified Health Center in 1998. That designation allowed the agency to receive additional federal grants. Menendez allies noted that the organization in question, the North Hudson Community Action Corp., which provides social services and health care to the poor and was founded in 1960, had received federal funding for years before Menendez was in Congress, and receives its funding based on mathematical formulas. Menendez maintains that he rented the property out below market-value because "he was supportive of its work". The total rent collected over nine years was over $300,000.
In September 2006, just a few weeks before the 2006 senate elections, the office of the US District Attorney, Republican Chris Christie, began investigating the rental deal with NHCAC, subpoenaing records from them. Some Democrats criticized the investigation, particularly the timing of the investigation and news leaks, as being politically motivated.
An effort to recall Senator Menendez was launched in early 2010 by a group of New Jersey citizens. Although Article 1, Paragraph 2(b) of the New Jersey Constitution expressly authorizes such a recall, state officials fought the effort in court. On March 16, 2010, a State Appeals court ruled that the recall petition could go forward. Menendez said he was surprised that a group claiming to be true to the Constitution is trying now, in his words, "to undermine it". Menendez appealed the ruling. Legal experts have debated the constitutionality of a state recall of a federal officeholder. On November 18, 2010, the New Jersey Supreme Court found that the New Jersey provision violated the U.S. Constitution.
In 2010, The Wall Street Journal reported that Menendez had written to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, asking him to approve an acquisition that would rescue from the prospect of receivership a New Jersey bank, First Bank Americano, operated by Menendez contributors. It was discovered that "eight of 15 directors, including the bank’s chairman and vice-chairman, have been contributors to Menendez or his political action committee." Former federal bank regulator William K. Black called the letter "grotesquely inappropriate" and said that "the letter crossed an unofficial line by asking regulators to approve an application instead of simply asking that it be given consideration." An aide to the senator said that his decision to write the letter was not influenced by political contributions. A highly critical report by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation found that the institution had engaged in unsafe or unsound banking practices, including operating without adequate supervision by its board of directors, an excessive level of delinquent or bad loans, inadequate earnings and insufficient coverage of its assets.
On January 5, 2012 Menendez blocked Judge Patty Shwartz, an Obama administration nominee to a federal judgeship, drawing speculation that the block was placed because of Shwartz's relationship with the head of the public corruption unit for New Jersey’s federal prosecutor who had investigated the senator during his 2006 election fight. Menendez denied personal motivation for the block. He has long contended that the corruption investigation was politically motivated. The investigation was closed in late 2011, with no charges filed.
In November 2012, the conservative political news and opinion website Daily Caller published allegations that Menendez had contact with underage prostitutes in the Dominican Republic. The allegations were promoted by Republican Party operatives, who arranged interviews for two women accusing Menendez of patronizing prostitutes. News organizations such as the New York Times, ABC News and the New York Post had declined to publish the allegations, viewing them as unsubstantiated and lacking credibility.
The FBI investigated the allegations involving prostitution, and found no evidence to substantiate them. Subsequently, one of the women who had accused Menendez stated that she had been paid to falsely implicate the Senator, whom she had never met. The Daily Caller says this woman was not interviewed for their story. Menendez's office described the allegations as "manufactured" by a "right-wing blog" as a politically motivated smear. On March 18, police in the Dominican Republic announced that three women had acknowledged they had been paid $300–425 each to lie about having had sex with Menendez.
On December 12, 2012 it was reported that the Senator's office had an unpaid intern volunteering who had let his visitor visa expire and who was a registered sex offender. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had been aware of the man as early as October 2012 but according to the Associated Press, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) instructed federal agents not to arrest the man until after Election Day. Menendez denied knowing about the allegation of the directive to delay the arrest and only recently learned of the arrest. According to two federal officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case, the intern was arrested in front of his home in New Jersey on December 6, 2012.
It was reported on March 14, 2013, that a federal grand jury in Miami is investigating Menendez regarding his role in advocating for the business interests of ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen. Menendez's efforts to push U.S. government officials to enforce a lucrative port security contract would benefit one of his major donors, Dr. Salomon E. Melgen, as well as Pedro Pablo Permuy, a former national security adviser and senior legislative aide to Mr. Menendez. In 2012, Melgen's business had donated over $700,000 to Majority PAC, a political action committee supporting Democratic candidates; the PAC spent more than $582,000 on Menendez's behalf.
In 1976, Menendez married Jane Jacobsen, a teacher for the Union City Board of Education. They divorced in 2005. The couple has two children: news correspondent Alicia Menendez, and Robert, a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
|New Jersey's 13th congressional district: 1992|
|Republican||Fred J. Theemling, Jr.||44,529||31%|
|Stop Tax Increases||Joseph D. Bonacci||2,363||2%|
|Communist||John E. Rummel||1,525||1%|
|Socialist Workers||Jane Harris||1,406||1%|
|New Jersey's 13th congressional district: 1994|
|Republican||Fernando A. Alonso||24,071||25%||-6|
|We the People||Frank J. Rubino, Jr.||1,494||2%||N/A|
|Politicians Are Crooks||Herbert H. Shaw||1,319||1%||N/A|
|Socialist Workers||Steven Marshall||895||1%||N/A|
|New Jersey's 13th congressional district: 1996|
|Republican||Carlos E. Munoz||24,427||17%||-8|
|Independent||Herbert H. Shaw||2,136||1%||0|
|Independent||William P. Estrada||720||<1%||N/A|
|New Jersey's 13th congressional district: 1998|
|Republican||Theresa de Leon||14,615||17%||0|
|Independent||Richard S. Hester, Sr.||1,276||1%||N/A|
|Independent||Richard G. Rivera||872||1%||N/A|
|New Jersey's 13th congressional district: 2000|
|Republican||Theresa de Leon||27,849||19%||+2|
|Independent||Claudette C. Meliere||2,741||2%||N/A|
|Independent||Herbert H. Shaw||357||<1%||N/A|
|New Jersey's 13th congressional district: 2002|
|Green||Pat Henry Faulkner||1,195||1%||N/A|
|Anti-Corruption Doctor||Esmat Zaklama||740||1%||N/A|
|Pro Life Conservative||Dick Hester||732||1%||N/A|
|Politicians are Crooks||Herbert H. Shaw||573||1%||N/A|
|New Jersey's 13th congressional district: 2004|
|Republican||Richard W. Piatkowski||35,288||22%||+4|
|Pro Life Conservative||Dick Hester||1,282||1%||N/A|
|Politicos son Corruptos||Herbert H. Shaw||1,066||1%||0|
|Socialist Workers||Angela L. Lariscy||887||1%||0|
Write-in and minor candidate notes: In 1992, Donald K. Stoveken as an America First Populist received 682 votes. In 2000, Alina Lydia Fonteboa received 233 votes and Kari Sachs received 168 votes. In 2002, a candidate listed only as Independent (The American Party) received 34 votes; also, Herbert Shaw's full party name was "Politicians are Crooks – Politicos son Corruptos" (shortened for display purposes above).
|New Jersey United States Senate election, 2006|
|Democratic||Bob Menendez (inc.)||1,200,843||53.3||+3.1|
|Republican||Thomas Kean, Jr.||997,775||44.3||-2.8|
|Independent||N. Leonard Smith||6,243||0.3||n/a|
|Socialist Workers||Angela Lariscy||3,433||0.2||+0.1|
|United States Senate election in New Jersey, 2012|
|Democratic||Bob Menendez (incumbent)||1,783,943||58.4%||+5.1%|
|Libertarian||Kenneth R. Kaplan||14,802||0.5%||-0.2%|
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- Unofficial general results
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Robert Menendez.|
- Senator Robert Menendez official U.S. Senate site
- Bob Menendez for Senate
- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Profile at Project Vote Smart
- Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
- Legislation sponsored at The Library of Congress
- New Jersey's New Senator, editorial, New York Times, December 9, 2005
- Menendez on the Move, Al Sullivan, Union City Reporter, December 11, 2005