New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez has been indicted on corruption charges, which I read as his being charged with being a politician from New Jersey.
At issue is the trading of official acts in exchange for gifts from a donor.
Senator Menendez helped 3 girlfriends of the donor to get US visas. Menendez also intervened with the Department of Health and Human Services to help overturn an $8.9 million fine for the donor’s overbilling of medicare.
In exchange the Senator is said to have received private charter flights and more.
One of the gifts that is the basis of the prosecution is the donor’s use of American Express Membership Rewards points to book the Park Hyatt Vendome in Paris on behalf of Senator Menendez.
Prosecutors allege Melgen paid for Menendez’s room in the posh Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme so he could see “a woman with whom he had a personal relationship.”
..The room Menendez allegedly stayed was valued at $4,934.10, prosecutors say. After having his staff research room rates, they say, Menendez asked Melgen to book “either the Park Suite King or the Park Deluxe King” using the doctor’s American Express reward points.
He allegedly told Melgen in an email that the room had a “king bed, work areas with internet, limestone bath with soaking tub and enclosed rain shower, [and] views of courtyard or streets.”
“You call American Express Rewards and they will book it for you,” prosecutors allege he wrote to the doctor in the email. “It would need to be in my name.”
I’ll reserve judgment on the merits of the prosecution, aside from pointing out the Senator’s home state.
What’s most compelling though is that Amex points were used to directly pay for a hotel booking, and that is never a good idea. That donor apparently flushed about half a million Amex points. He should have paid cash for the room and at a minimum saved the points for the first class commercial flights that he needed to cover as part of his kickbacks to the Senator.
While I certainly have concerns about overcriminalization, and putting people in prison for nonviolent offenses, at some level use of American Express points in this fashion ought to be illegal…