Mar 15, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Menendez indictments inspire bipartisan bribery bill

Sen. Bob Menendez, wearing a blue suit, white shirt, blue striped tie and glasses, sits in front of a wooden dais on a black chair.

Sen. Bob Menendez. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images.

A bipartisan group of U.S. House members introduced legislation on Friday aimed at strengthening bribery laws sparked by the federal bribery charges against Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.).

Why it matters: Menendez's indictments have pulled back the curtain on his alleged ability to levy his position atop the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for personal gain.

  • Menendez has denied wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Driving the news: The legislation is called the "Gifts for Officials, Legislators and Delegates Standard Act," or "GOLD Standard Act" for short — a play on allegations that Menendez took bribes in the form of gold bars.

  • The two-page bill would expand the definition of an "official act" — an action performed by a public officials in exchange for a bribe — under U.S. criminal code to include a recommendation, investigation or advice.
  • It's a response to the Supreme Court's 2016 decision in McDonnell v. United States in which the court narrowed the definition of public corruption, making it harder for prosecutors to pursue bribery cases.
  • Introduced by Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.), the bill is cosponsored by Reps. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), Eric Sorenson (D-Ill.) and Andy Kim (D-N.J.), one of the frontrunners for Menendez's seat.

What they're saying: "Public officials should be held to the highest ethical and legal standards — not be immune from them," Craig said.

  • "Senator Menendez's case is an urgently needed reminder of the risks weak bribery laws pose to our democracy and national security. My bipartisan bill changes that to ensure public officials who abuse their office can be held accountable."

The backdrop: Menendez is accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for using his influence to protect and benefit a group of New Jersey businessmen.

  • Among the allegations is that Menendez performed acts on behalf of and made favorable statements towards the governments of Egypt and Qatar to help his associates' businesses in exchange for bribes.

Go deeper: Sen. Menendez, wife charged with obstruction of justice in new federal indictment

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