(NEW YORK) — New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez is demanding an investigation into the political operatives who may have been behind an elaborate plot to embroil him in an international sex scandal.
“I have no idea who is behind these efforts, but I hope that the press will pursue them as vigorously to find out who was behind these efforts as they did in the first place,” Menendez said on Tuesday. “All I know is obviously there must be interests were trying to defeat me in my election and who obviously did not want to see me in my role as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.”
It all started last year as Menendez campaigned for re-election. Six days before the votes were cast, GOP operatives helped to arrange Skype interviews in the Dominican Republic with three women who all told ABC News the senator paid them for sex. Two of the women repeated the claims to a conservative news website, the Daily Caller.
Their interactions with Menendez supposedly took place at the famed Dominican resort Casa de Campo and at the home there of one of the senator’s campaign donors, where the GOP operatives claimed in reports that surveillance teams learned of raucous pool parties where “everyone [was] naked, of course.”
But during the ABC News interviews, none of the women could produce identity cards with their names, and they all provided the same story almost word for word, as if they had been coached.
They were, according to a sworn affidavit filed in court this week by one of the three women, who says it was all a set up.
In the affidavit, she said that she and the others were paid to use fake names and make up a story about sex with the senator. A Dominican official familiar with the case confirmed that the woman in the affidavit, identified as Nexis de los Santos Santana, was the same woman who wore a yellow blouse when interviewed by ABC News.
In her interview with ABC News before the election, she said her name was Michelle Rodriguez and that she had come forward because Menendez had paid her only $100 of the $500 she had expected. She now says she was coached to make the claim.
“I think it’s a pretty elaborate plot to take down a sitting senator,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “I have no idea who would be behind this and who would go to such great lengths… who would fund this because it wasn’t cheap.”
ABC News did not report the allegations last year, but the Daily Caller ran a story and continues to stand by it.
While the allegations about the prostitutes may have been discredited, the senator still faces an ethics inquiry into his relationship with that donor who provided Menendez with private plane flights and for whom Menendez allegedly intervened to help obtain contracts.
Menendez has already been forced to amend his financial disclosure statement to account for the flights and reimburse the donor for $58,000.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Dylan Byers, CNN
Azadeh Ansari and Angela Dewan, CNN
Jackson Adams, Teton Valley News
Dakin Andone, CNN