Menendez hires top lawyer in rent case Spokesman still says senator 'is not under investigation'

Menendez hires top lawyer in rent case
Spokesman still says senator 'is not under investigation'

November 03, 2006 Star-Ledger Staff

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D- N.J.) has repeatedly denied he is being investigated by federal prosecutors, but yesterday his campaign staff confirmed that a prominent criminal defense lawyer is representing him in an inquiry into a rental property he once owned.

Marc Elias is a Washington, D.C., attorney who specializes in criminal defense and election law and has been representing Menen dez's campaign in recent years. After federal investigators subpoeaned records in September re garding a rental deal Menendez had with a nonprofit agency he helped get federal funds, Elias noti fied the U.S. Attorney's Office he was representing the senator in the matter.

Elias also represented former U.S. Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.) when Torricelli faced an ethics investigation that led him to drop out of his re-election campaign in 2002, and he was general counsel to the 2004 presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).

Last week Menendez's campaign spokesman Matt Miller acknowledged that another prominent defense attorney, Joseph Hayden, had contacted the U.S. Attor ney's Office on behalf of the campaign to "find out what was going on." In response to reporters' questions about that contact, Me nendez said simply, "I have not re tained Joe Hayden."

Menendez and his opponent in Tuesday's election for U.S. Senate, Republican Tom Kean Jr., have been sparring for weeks over whether Menendez is under criminal investigation, and yesterday's revelation did not end the dispute. Jill Hazelbaker, a spokeswoman for the Kean campaign, said it is more evidence Menendez is "another Torricelli."

"And it's proof positive that, despite repeated denials, Menendez has lied to the people about the fact that he is under criminal investigation," Hazelbaker said.

Miller said the use of a criminal defense attorney does not mean Menendez is under investigation. He said Elias "contacted the U.S. Attorney's Office to find out if they needed any information at all from Bob Menendez. They said they did not, which is why we have always said the senator is not under investigation. He, in fact, is not."

Elias declined to comment yesterday.

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