NJ Politics Digest: Key Menendez Aide Pushes Back on Prosecution

Bob Menendez. Kena Betancur/Getty Images

A former staff member for Sen. Bob Menendez said Thursday that the senator’s 2012 meetings with federal health officials were about policy issues, not to help his top donor and friend Salomon Melgen as part of a corrupt deal, as prosecutors claim.

Former aide Michael Barnard testified that Menendez thought Medicare’s reimbursement guidelines for the eye drug Lucentis — which was at the center of an $8.9 million billing dispute between Melgen and the feds — were inconsistent. Barnard said that he found the government’s reimbursement rules “contradictory and ambiguous” when researching the issue, according to the Star-Ledger.

Fresh off their final debate before the election, Kim Guadagno and Phil Murphy were back on the campaign trail. Former President Barack Obama stumped for Murphy, the Democratic nominee for governor, and told voters to reject “the politics of fear.” Guadagno, the Republican nominee, held another event on lowering property taxes and the cost of living.

Quote of the Day: “In 19 days the world is going to be looking to New Jersey. In 19 days, the world is going to look and see, what kind of politics do we believe in?” — Former President Barack Obama campaigning in New Jersey for Phil Murphy

Obama Condemns ‘Politics of Division’ at Murphy Rally
Criticizing the “politics of fear,” former President Barack Obama made a rare appearance in New Jersey on Thursday to urge Democrats to get out the vote for Phil Murphy.
Christian Hetrick, Observer Read more

Trailing in Fundraising, Guadagno Needles Murphy and Obama
Kim Guadagno’s campaign for governor has gotten $6 million less in public matching funds than Phil Murphy’s, putting her at a disadvantage in the home stretch before the Nov. 7 election, according to a report released by the state Election Law Enforcement Commission on Wednesday.
Alyana Alfaro, Observer Read more

Menendez meetings with officials were about policy, not friendship, staffers say
After being repeatedly mentioned in testimony over the first seven weeks of U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez’s bribery trial, former staffer Michael Barnard took the stand for the first time Thursday as a defense witness to key conversations at the heart of the federal corruption case.
Star-Ledger Read more

Menendez’s re-election fundraising sags as trial goes on
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez’s fundraising has fallen by almost half compared with his last campaign, new Federal Election Commission filings show. Menendez, D-N.J., who is on trial in Newark on federal corruption charges, reported raising $5.6 million from Jan. 1, 2013, after his last campaign, through Sept. 30. Six years ago he raised $10.4 million during the same period.
NJ.com Read more

Menendez defense could rest next week
The defense for Sen. Robert Menendez and co-defendant Salomon Melgen could rest as soon as next week, attorneys said Wednesday. Menendez attorney Abbe Lowell told Judge William Walls during a sidebar conference Wednesday morning that if Menendez and Melgen don’t testify, he anticipates wrapping up at the end of next week.
Politico Read more

Doctors push back on attorney general’s new rules for compensation by drugmakers
New Jersey doctors and pharmaceutical representatives fired back Thursday at new rules proposed by state Attorney General Christopher Porrino that seek to regulate the financial relationships between prescribers and manufacturers.
The Record Read more

Homestretch of race for N.J. governor: ‘deranged murderers’ and Trump
Nearly half of likely voters don’t even have an opinion of the main candidates: Murphy, 60, a former Goldman Sachs banker and ambassador to Germany, and Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, 58, whose campaign launched the TV ad last week. So as the campaign enters the homestretch, both candidates are hoping to spark enthusiasm among their parties’ most loyal voters
Inquirer Read more

How Hurricane Sandy became steroids for Jersey Shore development
Up and down the New Jersey coastline, houses have gotten bigger, taller and, with few exceptions, pricier since Sandy pummeled the Shore on Oct. 29, 2012. Year-round ownership continues to decline as buyers snap up second homes, undeterred by the possibility of another devastating storm.
Inquirer Read more 

Stile: N.J. governor candidates prefer soundbites to substance while problems loom
Wednesday’s debate was a reminder that the 2017 campaign for governor has been bereft of big ideas. And details…Democrat Phil Murphy and Republican Kim Guadagno played it safe Wednesday, offering ready-for-soundbite slogans rather than substance and a compelling plan for the state’s troubled future.
The Record Read more

Murphy’s debate footwear has Twitter a-chirping
When Democratic nominee Phil Murphy set foot on stage at the second televised debate opposite Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, he raised eyebrows with a business-on-top/party-on-the-floor look of sneakers with a suit.
NJ.com Read more

NJ Politics Digest: Key Menendez Aide Pushes Back on Prosecution