May 10, 2024

Bob Menendez’s Home Savings Plan

The U.S. senator: heavy with cash, light on brains

By Ed Goldman

One of my favorite episodes of “The Sopranos,” the New Jersey gangster classic, is when local mob boss Tony Soprano dashes to his home ahead of the FBI to find and re-hide the thousands and thousands of dollars he’s been stashing there for years. 

Despite Tony’s sweating desperation, the segment hilariously demonstrates that these tough guys are, at heart, just common crooks. They don’t have Swiss bank accounts to which they can effortlessly wire “protection” and other racketeering money they’ve been collecting. Instead, they stuff the dough in pillows, crevices, attics and hollowed-out stairs (if I recall correctly). They’re just naughty boys, not urbane thieves, about to be caught with their hands in their own cookie jars.

Edgy Cartoon

Lettuce prey

Now take the same setting (New Jersey) and enter U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, who was caught allegedly attempting to do the same at his home with cash and gold bars which were not, it’s been suggested, how his government salary was being paid. 

And if you want to really find parallels: While Bob hasn’t bumped off his beloved nephew—as Tony does when he realizes the kid just isn’t measuring up as scion material—he’s been threatening to shove his wife, and alleged partner-in-crime under the allegorical bus to save his own hide.

If you’re tuning in late, federal investigators searched Bob’s home almost two years ago, finding “more than $480,000 in cash stashed in envelopes and coats as well as 13 gold bars worth more than $100,000,” according to CBS News. “They also seized nearly $80,000 from his wife’s safe deposit box at a nearby bank.” (I guess deposit boxes aren’t all that “safe.”)

Bob’s argument is that he’s been withdrawing cash from his bank accounts and bringing it home for years “in case of emergencies”—and not, as charged, that the loot consists of bribes Bob received from some overseas countries hoping to sway him when he was chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Bob’s excuse for taking money home from the office—that it’s not only something he just does but for which he’s also being treated by a shrink—pales beside comedian Steve Martin’s all-purpose alibi for any dubious activity: “I forgot!” Yet  it does make me wonder about other indiscretions one can cover up by declaring them emergency preventives. Submitted for your scrutiny:

  1. ON BEING CAUGHT KIDNAPING AND HOLDING AN EXECUTIVE FOR RANSOM: “I think there may have been some over-reacting here, Your Honor. As a kid growing up in Newark, my buddies and me, feeling sorry for a rich kid being roughed up on the playground, threw him in a car for safekeeping then took him to a quiet place. I think it was a city landfill. Then we called his folks to let them know he was okay, that we had rescued him from some bullies and, now that you bring it up, wouldn’t pass up a lovey reward of some sort, preferably in small untraceable bills.”
  2. ON BEING CAUGHT OPERATING AN OPIOID LAB NEXT DOOR TO A DAYCARE CENTER: “Listen, I know this looks bad, Officer—and my heavens! That uniform really brings out the blue in your eyes!—but the fact is, I and my pals have been lab nerds since childhood. Sid over there, the one who’s missing an eye and three fingers, he almost won a National Medal of Science Award when he was a high school junior but accidentally blew up the science building. We even made up a poem about him: ‘Sidney was a scientist but now he is no more/Instead of drinking H2O he made H2SO4.’ Yes, Officer, that’s sulfuric acid. Wow, great blue eyes and a head for chemistry! Anyway, we’re really sorry about torching the entire fleet of cop cars in the police garage. Well, except one. We were hoping you’d allow us to drive home in that so we can begin repenting in earnest. And checking our Swiss bank accounts.”

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Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).