New Jerseyans are learning one thing for sure about Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy: when the politicians he funds get indicted, he stands by them.
Murphy is such a big a supporter of embattled U.S. Senator Bob Menendez that he and his wife have given $18,100 to Menendez’s legal defense fund and Senate campaign since he was indicted in April 2015.
Murphy didn’t stop there. “I’ve supported and continue to support vigorously Senator Menendez,” said Murphy. “I’m not a lawyer,” he added. “I’m a big supporter of Senator Menendez…”
When asked outright if Menendez should resign his Senate seat if convicted, Murphy refused to answer. Reports the Cherry Hill Courier-Post:
Murphy, a former Obama administration ambassador to Germany and Goldman Sachs executive, was asked at a news conference whether a convicted senator should resign, but he declined to answer.
Just to recap: Menendez, who was indicted in 2015, is facing trial for fraud and bribery charges in federal court - the first U.S. senator to do so in 36 years.
Specifically, he is accused of doling out favors to Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen, in exchange for expensive hotel stays, private flights, and more than $750,000 in campaign contributions. Sidenote: Melgen was already convicted in a Florida court of Medicare fraud that could land in prison for the rest of his life.
While Murphy reiterated his support for the Senator, his Republican challenger, Kim Guadagno, didn’t waste any time in calling for the senator to resign should he be found guilty. “If a jury finds him guilty,” she said, “Senator Menendez owes it to his constituents to step down so that New Jersey can be represented with honor in the U.S. Senate.” Guadagno even took steps to release a sweeping ethics package, aimed at fighting corruption and the influence of special interests in politics.
Murphy’s hesitation to make a definitive statement about Menendez’s resignation has raised eyebrows throughout the state. State Sen. Steven Oroho even took to the pages of the Sparta Independent to call on Murphy to issue a firm statement:
But Mr. Murphy, if you are vying to be the chief executive of New Jersey, I believe it is about time that you do some thinking about the big issue of political corruption and take a position on whether or not a convicted elected official should leave public office.
Your campaign team might not want you to play politics with this, but you need to tell the people what your thinking is on this. You owe it to the people, if you want to be their Governor.
Will Phil Murphy continue to stand by Sen. Menendez? Only time will tell.