New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez faces potentially unsustainable legal costs to defend himself against forthcoming charges of corruption from the Justice Department.
For almost two years, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has been preparing for a likely costly legal battle following probes of alleged misconduct linked to a longtime donor, the National Journal reported.
In December 2013, Menendez spent thousands of dollars from his campaign war chest for legal advice in connection with two ethical probes, and in January 2014 the Ethics Committee gave him permission to set-up the Robert Menendez Legal Expense Trust, which has helped him fund legal expenses that will extend into the future.
"It's really impossible to put any kind of reasonable number" on how much his total defense could cost, Kenneth Gross, an attorney at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, told the Journal. "But lawyers are not cheap."
Legal battles involving members of Congress in the past have cost anywhere between thousands of dollars to millions, according to the Journal.
"He could settle it, it could be dropped, it could have to go to court," Gross said. "So it could be from thousands to millions, depending on whether we're talking about a full trial or appeals, or anything else."
To date, Menendez's legal costs related to the two probes totaled at least $1 million, according to NJ.com.
He would be able to draw on a combination of personal, campaign, and PAC funds to provide for his legal defense.
"The senator is not an exorbitantly wealthy man, and devoting significant time and money to a legal fight could be draining—both financially and politically," the Journal said.
By one estimate he is worth $450,000, comparatively little compared to colleagues who are worth an average of $10 million.
Menendez is accused of accepting favors from a longtime friend and donor, Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen, in exchange for political influence.
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