WASHINGTON – During the previous federal corruption trial of Bob Menendez, two political donors to the senator’s campaign, Raul Alarcon Jr. and Donald Scarinci, were central figures in the case.

Alarcon, then and now the head of a Spanish language radio network, had given $100,000 to Menendez’s reelection efforts, and Scarinci, a longtime friend of the senator’s, had helped solicit donations.

The duo testified in defense of Menendez who was then accused of helping a Florida doctor and donor in exchange for political contributions.

Credit: (NJ Spotlight News)
Jose Uribe pleaded guilty in March to participating in alleged bribery scheme.

Seven years later, Alarcon and Scarinci are again backing Menendez, this time as donors to a defense fund created to pay for legal expenses for the senator who faces federal charges of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of bribes in exchange for performing political favors for the governments of Egypt and Qatar.

The trial against Menendez, who faces years in prison if convicted, is scheduled to begin Monday in New York City with jury selection.

A Supreme Court ruling issued in 2016 made proving bribery and corruption of public officials more difficult, but providing vivid details to the public is one technique that can be effective for prosecutors.

Menendez, a Democrat, will be tried separately from his wife, Nadine, one of five original defendants in the case. One defendant, Jose Uribe, pleaded guilty in March to participating in the alleged bribery scheme at the core of the federal case between roughly 2018 and 2023.

Analysis of donor list

An NJ Spotlight News analysis of donations to a legal defense fund created for Menendez found about 45% came from donors outside of New Jersey, and approximately 40% in the fund was given before Menendez was indicted Sept. 22.

The analysis included all donations that are publicly available in records filed with the IRS, spanning mid-July 2023 until March 31.

In that period, people, companies, unions and political committees gave $651,650 through 133 transactions, an average of $4,900 per donation.

Menendez went through more than $2.6 million in legal fees last year.

Of that total, $289,900, or about 46%, has come from outside of New Jersey and $252,500, or roughly 39%, arrived before prosecutors indicted Menendez in the fall.

And about 20% of the donations, or $126,000, came from organizations: companies, political action committees and a labor union, the International Longshoremen’s Association in North Bergen, N.J.

Norcross, Kushner donations

South Jersey power broker George Norcross and his two adult children, Alexandra and Alexander, each gave $10,000 on Sept. 3, before the indictment was public. The CEO and president of Connor Strong Buckelew, a Norcross company, also gave $10,000 to the fund — the annual limit under federal law.

Credit: (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
File photo: George Norcross

The real estate company run by members of the  Kushner family made two $10,000 donations, one in March and the other last year. Murray Kushner, an uncle to Jared Kushner, son-in-law to former president Donald Trump, founded the company that made the donations.

In October, Alcaron gave $10,000, and Donald Scarinci gave $10,000 a month later. The law firm where Scarinci is founding partner, Scarinci Hollenbeck, also gave $5,000.

Donations from realtors, real estate developers, bankers, attorneys and finance executives dominate the list of money flowing to Menendez. But the senator, who will skip the Democratic primary in June and has said he may run instead as an “independent Democrat,” is spending money faster than he’s bringing in cash.

Donations evaporating

Menendez went through more than $2.6 million in legal fees last year, and incoming donations have largely evaporated, financial disclosures show.

Other contributions that stand out include $10,000 in January from Dennis Mehiel, a longtime Democratic donor who made his fortune in the corrugated cardboard business, and Kendall Coffey, a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

Jeanne Cretella, a member of the New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association in 2021, when she appeared with Menendez and other elected officials at a Hoboken rally for pandemic-related federal funding, is another donor. She gave $5,500 in two donations last year.

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