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Senator Robert Menendez sought to discourage any plan by the United States government to donate port security equipment to the Dominican Republic, citing concern that the advanced screening gear might undermine efforts by a private company — run by a major campaign contributor and friend of his — to do the work.

The intervention with the Department of Homeland Security last month came even though Mr. Menendez has publicly chastised the Obama administration for not doing more to combat the surging drug traffic moving through Dominican ports.

And it came shortly after the senator’s friend, Dr. Salomon E. Melgen, arranged to meet with a senior State Department official, accompanied by a former aide to Mr. Menendez, in a related push to protect the port security contract, which is worth as much as $500 million over 20 years.

Officials at the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department declined to comment on the matter, with a State Department official citing an investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee into related matters.

Mr. Menendez has broadly rejected any suggestion that his official actions have been driven by an effort to favor Dr. Melgen, a wealthy Florida ophthalmologist who has repeatedly flown the senator on his private plane and has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to support Democrats in the Senate as well as Mr. Menendez’s re-election campaign.

“Nobody has bought me, number one. Nobody. Never,” Mr. Menendez said in an interview late last week with Univision, the Spanish-language news station. “In the 20 years that I have been in Congress, never has it been suggested that this could even be possible.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/11/us/politics/menendez-disco...
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