Isn't this what government normally does?

I wonder if this type of quid pro quo is so common that it isn't even considered corruption. Your politician gives your federal grants and in return you given him donations.

And now a fresh scandal has national Democratic leaders panicking, even though the Dems haven't lost a Senate election in the Garden State since 1972. That's because this election could well decide control of the Senate come January.

News broke last Friday of a federal investigation into Menendez's finances. Over a period of nearly nine years, Menendez collected $329,353 in rent for what's been described as a "shabby" three-story rowhouse he owns in Union City.

Problem is, the rent came from the North Hudson Community Action Corp., an anti-poverty agency - and, even as he was the group's landlord, then-Rep. Menendez was muscling the federal Department of Health and Human Services to list the outfit as a federally qualified health center.

That designation has allowed the agency to rake in $9.6 million in federal HHS grants since 1998 - indeed, Washington now covers 64 percent of its yearly budget. And grateful NHCAC employees and officials have given thousands to Menendez's campaigns.

As for the building, Menendez sold it in 2003 for $405,000 - a 440 percent profit over what he paid for it two decades before.

Now comes reports that U.S. Attorney Chris Christie - who has won bipartisan praise for his anti-corruption prosecutions - has subpoenaed NHCAC's financial records.

Menendez and his allies are screaming bloody murder. "Straight out of the Bush-Rove playbook," the senator whined. Lautenberg called the subpoena's timing "sinister," while Gov. Jon Corzine - who handpicked Menendez to succeed him in the Senate - said the probe seems "less than objective." (Christie is a Republican who has been mentioned for higher office.) . . .


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