Sen. Robert Menendez says he repaid donor

Travel deals

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Robert Menendez's office says he reimbursed a prominent Florida political donor $58,500 on Jan. 4 for the full cost of two of three trips Menendez (D-N.J.) took on the donor's plane to the Dominican Republic in 2010.

More details about the senator's trips emerged as his office said allegations he engaged in sex with prostitutes in the Dominican Republic "are manufactured by a politically motivated right-wing blog and are false."

There had been no public disclosure of the two trips until now.

"The senator paid for the two trips out of his personal account and no reporting requirements apply," Menendez spokeswoman Tricia Enright said Wednesday night.

The FBI searched the West Palm Beach, Fla., office of the donor, eye doctor Salomon Melgen, Tuesday and early Wednesday, but it was unclear if the raid was related to Menendez.

A third trip by Menendez on Melgen's plane -- a fundraising journey to the donor's residence in the Dominican Republic -- took place in May 2010. That trip was reported to the Federal Election Commission as a $5,400 expenditure by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which Menendez chaired. The trip took Menendez to Puerto Rico as well as the Dominican Republic, his office said. The $5,400 was paid to one of Melgen's companies, Vitreo Retinal Consultants.

Menendez called the other two trips personal. The first was Aug. 6-9, 2010, a round-trip from South Florida to the Dominican Republic. The second was Sept. 3-6, 2010, from New Jersey to the Dominican Republic and back.

White House press secretary Jay Carney declined to answer when asked whether the president still has full faith and confidence in Menendez.

On Tuesday, Menendez became chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, succeeding Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).

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