TIME justice

Trust-Busting Isn’t Back. Comcast Was Just Unlucky.

The Comcast Corp. logo is seen as Brian Roberts, chairman and chief executive officer of Comcast Corp. (R) speaks during a news conference in Washington on June 11, 2013.
Bloomberg/Getty Images The Comcast Corp. logo is seen as Brian Roberts, chairman and chief executive officer of Comcast Corp. (R) speaks during a news conference in Washington on June 11, 2013.

Comcast walked away from its $45.2 billion proposed merger with Time Warner Cable, according to a statement released Friday.

The unexpected change of heart—attributed to unnamed sources by Bloomberg News, CNBC and the New York Times (Comcast declined to comment to TIME)—comes just a day after government officials at the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department expressed doubt this week that a marriage between the nation’s two largest cable companies would serve the public interest.

But advocates for robust antitrust action shouldn’t celebrate too much. The collapse of the merger had more to do with the specifics of this particular deal than a return to the 1970s, when the federal government last engaged in energetic trust busting.

For starters, the two companies involved in this particular marriage are uniquely unpopular. In poll after poll, Americans ranked both Comcast and Time Warner Cable as among the most-hated companies in the country. The prospect of two nationally despised companies merging into one bigger despised company did not earn much public support. Though 97 members of Congress signed a letter in 2011 in support of the unprecedented merger between Comcast and the much less-hated NBC Universal, this time around, there was hardly a peep.

Weak public support for the deal was also exacerbated by bad timing. The announcement of the proposed merger in February 2014 just happened to coincide with what became, over the course of the last year, a frothy, nationwide debate over net neutrality, the idea that all web traffic should be treated equally. While Comcast did its very best to separate its proposed merger from the hubbub over a free and open Internet, it was a tough sell. Comcast, which charged Netflix for faster delivery of its content—a violation of many people’s idea of net neutrality—found itself constantly in the news.

But even if the environment had been pristine for a merger of two giant companies, the fact that Comcast and Time Warner Cable are regulated by the FCC meant that, unlike with most mergers, this one always had to clear two separate hoops: one with the FCC and one with the Department of Justice.

The FCC was charged with determining whether the transaction would serve “the public interest, convenience, and necessity”—a nebulous standard that only exacerbated the companies’ problems. Meanwhile, the Justice Department had to decide whether the larger, combined Comcast would constitute a monopoly—another vaguely worded mandate that left room for interpretation.

The FCC, while technically an independent agency, doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Just weeks after President Obama expressed support for the strongest-possible net neutrality rules last November, the FCC proposed them. So it’s perhaps not insignificant to mention that Obama, a second-term Democrat who’s currently going to battle with liberals by supporting the biggest free-trade deal of all time, would throw the left a bone by quietly encouraging both agencies to slow-roll a merger that most Americans hated anyway.

If Comcast walks away from the Time Warner Cable merger as reported, anti-trust groups who vehemently opposed the deal will celebrate.

But there’s no reason to believe that the $49 billion merger between AT&T and DirecTV—or any of the other huge marriages coming down the pike—won’t go through without a hitch. Anti-trust organizations may have won a battle, but they’re still losing the war.

TIME justice

What’s the Deal With the Comcast-Time Warner Cable Merger?

The Comcast Corp. logo is seen as Brian Roberts, chairman and chief executive officer of Comcast Corp. (R) speaks during a news conference in Washington on June 11, 2013.
Bloomberg/Getty Images The Comcast Corp. logo is seen as Brian Roberts, chairman and chief executive officer of Comcast Corp. (R) speaks during a news conference in Washington on June 11, 2013.

The gargantuan, $45.2 billion merger between the nation’s two largest cable companies, Comcast and Time Warner Cable appears to be hitting a regulatory wall.

Here’s the quick-and-dirty on what’s going down:

Wait, I thought this thing was a done-deal?

You and everyone else. When Comcast first announced the proposed merger 14 months ago, in February 2014, industry insiders thought it was a slam dunk. But late last week, news broke that officials at the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice would hold a meeting this week that, at the very least, would slow the approval process down.

What are the FCC and the Justice Department worried about?

If the merger goes through, a combined Comcast-TWC would control 30% of the pay-TV market, with roughly 30 million subscribers — three times the number of its closest cable competitor. It would also control almost 60% of the country’s market for broadband Internet, the pipe through which an increasing number of Americans watch TV, thanks to companies such as Netflix and Hulu (which Comcast also owns in part). FCC officials have expressed concern that such a merger would “not be in the public interest,” while Justice Department lawyers have whispered that it just might be big enough to trigger anti-trust actions.

So what happened this week?

On Wednesday, the FCC and Justice Department officials met with muckety-mucks at Comcast and TWC to cordially express their misgivings, according to a source familiar with the meeting. FCC officials said they may recommend that the merger be subject to an additional round of scrutiny, which means more meetings, more hearings, and more airing of Comcast’s laundry.

Uh-oh. That doesn’t sound good for the merger.

It’s definitely not. But it’s also hardly a death knell. While FCC and Justice Department officials stress that the merger could still go through, regulatory experts say the process will likely be long and tedious, since there’s no official timeline for when a decision will be made.

So what happens now?

Top lobbyists at Comcast and TWC are expected to spend the next few months doing their very best to cajole officials at the FCC and Justice Department to just push the deal through.

What’s Comcast and TWC’s very best argument in favor of the merger?

The two companies don’t overlap geographically. If you’re a TWC subscriber in New York City, for example, you couldn’t switch over to Comcast even if you wanted to; Comcast doesn’t offer service there. So combining the two companies doesn’t reduce cable and broadband Internet customers’ choices. And, anyway, since Comcast’s broadband service is faster than TWC’s in some places, some current TWC customers could actually see their service improve under Comcast. Comcast, which also owns NBC Universal, also argues that it has to be big in order to compete with enormously popular web streaming companies, such as Netflix and Apple TV.

So what are some government officials and public interest groups’ argument against the merger?

The biggest issue is the power that a combined Comcast-TWC would have on the greater TV/Internet marketplace. It could, for example, wield an unfair competitive advantage against both TV producers, who negotiate to license their content to cable companies, and online video streaming companies, like Netflix, which rely on broadband service providers to deliver their content quickly. Comcast already owns NBC Universal, one of the biggest TV producers, and part of Hulu, one of the biggest streaming TV producers.

What happens next?

At this point, what’s happening inside the FCC and the Justice Department is unclear. Neither agency is under any obligation to make its thinking public at this stage. And while industry insiders say the best weathervane is Wall Street, that’s much help these days either: Comcast stock dropped precipitously on Friday, when news of this week’s meeting with the FCC broke, but skyrocketed again at the close of business Wednesday, stretching up close to a five-year high.

TIME Marijuana

Marijuana Reform Activists Push for Change with DEA Head

DEA administrator Michele Leonhart testifies before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in a hearing on sexual harassment and misconduct allegations at the DEA and FBI in Washington on April 14, 2015.
James Lawler Duggan—Reuters DEA administrator Michele Leonhart testifies before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in a hearing on sexual harassment and misconduct allegations at the DEA and FBI in Washington on April 14, 2015.

And the resignation of Chief of Administration Michele Leonhart offers the chance for change

Marijuana legalization advocates are excited about the departure of Michele Leonhart, the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, whom they long considered an obstruction in their goal of reforming the nation’s drug laws.

“We are happy to see her go,” says Dan Riffle, the director of federal policies at the Marijuana Policy Project. “She’s a career drug warrior at a time when we’ve decided the ‘War on Drugs’ is an abject failure.”

Leonhart has been at the DEA for 35 years and served as the top dog since 2007. Though the recent scandal involving agents soliciting sex from prostitutes is what will likely most clearly tarnish her reputation, her position on drug policy has led marijuana reform activists to call for her resignation, says says Neill Franklin of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Franklin, a veteran of the Maryland state police, calls her position on marijuana reform “archaic.”

Leonhart has been a major hurdle in the effort to reconsider marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance, which could pave the way for more research into the health benefits of the drug. In 2011, the agency again rejected a petition to reschedule marijuana. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, the agency spent about $100 million in 2012 alone on enforcement regarding medical marijuana laws.

“Leonhart opposed medical marijuana, she opposed sentencing reform, she opposed pretty much everything that Obama was doing and for that matter everything Congress was doing,” says Bill Piper, the director of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance.

The Drug Policy Alliance is one of several drug and marijuana policy organizations that have previously called for Leonhart’s removal. Following a speech in which Leonhart was critical of Obama’s assertion that smoking marijuana was no more harmful that drinking alcohol, the Marijuana Policy Project and over 47,000 citizens called for her to resign. A Drug Policy Alliance petition called for her removal following revelations that the DEA had been tracking citizens’ phone calls for decades. Organizations including Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws have also called for her resignation.

Though who will be filling in for Leonhart isn’t yet clear, activists say her replacement should be more supportive of ongoing reform initiatives, including reducing mass incarceration and taking the health impact of drugs into consideration when formulating policy. What’s more, Piper says, her removal could lead the Obama administration to reschedule marijuana before the President leaves office.

“This offers a good opportunity for marijuana reform to move forward quicker than it has been moving,” Piper says.

More than that, though, it could signal and even steeper change to policy regarding the enforcement of drug laws. As more states consider legalizing marijuana in some form—23 states have legalized medical use and four have given the green light to toking up recreationally. Six additional states could consider legalization during the 2016 election. As the nation’s stance on that shifts, so too should its approach to drug enforcement, advocates say.

“Within the next 10 years, I see massive drug policy reform and therefore really an end to the DEA,” Franklin says. The new leader, he says, should approach the role as if he or she is “dismantling a decommissioned battleship and selling the pieces for scrap metal.”

“For most part, the DEA exists because they’re enforcing prohibition,” he adds. “I believe we’re moving away from prohibition and more toward health.”

TIME White House

Long Wait for Attorney General Nominee Will Soon Be Over

Loretta Lynch
Susan Walsh—AP Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch is sworn in on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 28, 2015 prior to testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on her nomination.

Loretta Lynch, the first female African American nominee for U.S. Attorney General, has waited over 160 days for her confirmation vote. On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that her wait would finally be over this week, “hopefully” in the next few days.

The historic hold-up ended as Senate negotiators announced an agreement Tuesday on an anti-human trafficking bill containing abortion language anathema to Democrats. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said that Republicans had agreed to their request not to expand the scope of the Hyde amendment, which bars the use of taxpayer funds for abortions, and added that the lengthy debate was a “contrived fight.” Republican leadership said the Senate would take up the Lynch vote as soon as they passed the bill.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell touted the anti-human trafficking bill as a celebratory moment for National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

“It’s a stark reminder of the countless victims of modern slavery who continue to suffer horrifying exploitation at the hands of human traffickers — a stark reminder of the need to pass the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act,” he said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “It’s a bill that victims groups and advocates have called ‘the most comprehensive and thoughtful piece of anti-trafficking legislation currently pending.’”

The breakthrough comes after President Obama sharply criticized the Senate Friday for stalling the Lynch nomination.

“Enough,” he said. “Enough. Call Loretta Lynch for a vote, get her confirmed, let her do her job. This is embarrassing.”

TIME White House

President Obama on Loretta Lynch Delay: ‘This is Embarrassing’

Barack Obama, Loretta Lynch, Eric Holder
Susan Walsh—AP The top U.S. prosecutor for the Eastern District of New York, in Brooklyn, Lynch was one of the few names on President Obama’s short list without close ties to the White House. If confirmed, she would be the first ­female African-American Attorney General.

"It's gone too far," Obama said Friday. "Enough."

President Obama got impatient as he expressed his disappointment with Senate Republicans’ delay of Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch’s confirmation.

“It’s gone too far,” Obama said during a press conference with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. “Enough. Enough.”

Obama blasted the Senate’s “dysfunction” in failing to confirm Lynch, who is set to become the first black female Attorney General in the nation’s history. A career prosecutor from New York, Lynch has now waited twice as long for her confirmation as the last seven attorney general nominees combined.

Though Lynch received bipartisan support following her confirmation hearings earlier this year, the Senate has failed to bring a vote on her new position. In recent weeks, Senate Republicans have delayed a vote over an unrelated fight on abortion provisions in a bill aimed at providing aid to survivors of human trafficking.

On Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid threatened to force a vote on the Lynch nomination.

On Friday, the President said he was outraged. “Call Loretta Lynch for a vote. Get her confirmed. Let her do her job,” Obama said. “This is embarrassing, a process like this.”

TIME jeb bush

Jeb Bush Says Senate Should Confirm Loretta Lynch

Jeb Bush
Mark Humphrey—AP Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks at the National Rifle Association convention in Nashville on April 10, 2015.

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush weighed in Thursday on the delayed confirmation of Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s nominee to be Attorney General, urging the Senate to move along with its consideration.

Answering questions at a town hall with New Hampshire primary voters at the Snowshoe Club, Bush, an all-but-announced Republican presidential candidate, stopped short of explicitly calling for Lynch’s confirmation. Her nomination to replace Attorney General Eric Holder has been stalled for an unusually long 160 days over a Senate showdown on an unrelated sex-trafficking bill that includes a controversial abortion provision.

“I think that Presidents have the right to pick their team,” Bush told a crowd of about 95 voters and a horde of media.

Bush said he had reservations about Lynch’s positions on gun control, but said presidential nominees deserve swift consideration.

“The longer it takes to confirm her, the longer Eric Holder stays as Attorney General,” Bush added, sending a signal to Republicans to lift their opposition to Lynch was only elongating the tenure of someone they like even less. “Look at it that way.”

Bush criticized Holder for having “politicized” his office, adding, “there should be some humbleness inside the Department of Justice.”

During the 60-minute Politics and Pie event, Bush was questioned about Obama’s rapprochement with Cuba and was challenged over his support of comprehensive immigration reform, telling one vocal critic, “I respect your view, but I don’t have to agree with it.”

He also addressed the dynasty question, joking that he’s not running for President to try to “break the tie between the Adams family and the Bush family,” referencing the second and sixth, and the 41st the 43rd Presidents, respectively.

Afterward, Bush, who brought a pair of key lime pies of south Florida’s famed Joe’s Stone Crab, sampled a blueberry pie, breaking his months-long paleo diet to sample some blueberry pie. “To hell with the diet … where are the french fries,” he quipped.

TIME Crime

Video Shows Cop Fatally Shooting Schizophrenic Man, Family Says

Catherine Daniels, the mother of Lavall Hall, 25, who was shot and killed by Miami Gardens police on Feb. 15, 2015,
Joe Raedle—Getty Images Catherine Daniels, the mother of Lavall Hall, 25, who was shot and killed by Miami Gardens police on Feb. 15, 2015,

Police can be heard telling Lavall Hall, 25, to “get the f--- on the ground or you’re dead"

The family of a 25-year-old mentally ill man who was shot dead by police in Miami Gardens, Fla. earlier this year released a 19-minute video on Wednesday showing the fatal shooting.

Lavall Hall’s mother called police on Feb. 15 for help with her son, who she said has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and when police arrived they found Hall outside the home in only his underwear, carrying a broomstick, attorneys for the family said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Hall’s mother had hoped police would take her son to a hospital. The family’s attorneys say police officers then approached Hall with excessive force.

In the dash-cam video, posted below, police can be heard telling Hall to “get the f— on the ground or you’re dead.” One officer then backs into the frame, firing five shots at Hall.

Police say Hall attacked them with deadly force, which is why they shot him. The family has filed a lawsuit against the police department and local authorities are investigating.

The Florida State Attorney’s office told ABC News they feared the video would hurt the ongoing investigation into the shooting, but they could not stop the family from releasing the footage.

TIME States

Colorado Says Baker Didn’t Discriminate in Refusing to Make Anti-Gay Cake

Bakery owner Marjorie Silva, who refused to write hateful words about gays on a cake for a customer, stands inside her own Azucar Bakery, in Denver, on Jan. 20, 2015.
Ivan Moreno—AP Bakery owner Marjorie Silva, who refused to write hateful words about gays on a cake for a customer, stands inside her own Azucar Bakery, in Denver, on Jan. 20, 2015.

Colorado Civil Rights Division said she was within legal rights to deny cake orders featuring "derogatory language and imagery"

A Colorado government agency has ruled that a baker who refused to make cakes featuring anti-gay messages did not discriminate against the man who requested them.

Last year, William Jack asked Denver’s Azucar Bakery for two bible-shaped cakes featuring images of groomsmen crossed out with a red “X” and phrases like “Homosexuality is a detestable sin. Leviticus 18.2,” local ABC station NEWS7 Denver reports. The bakery’s owner, Marjorie Silva, told Jack she would make the bible-shaped cakes and provide icing for him to add his own message, but she wouldn’t apply such “hateful and offensive” messages because her bakery “does not discriminate.”

Jack complained to the Colorado Civil Rights Division, accusing Silva of denying him goods or services based on his religion. But the agency recently ruled that Silva’s refusal to make the cakes was motivated by the “derogatory language and imagery,” and not because of religious discrimination. “In the same manner [she] would not accept [an order from] anyone wanting to make a discriminatory cake against Christians, [she] will not make one that discriminates against gays,” the ruling stated. Last year, the agency ruled that another bakery in the state could not refuse a gay couple’s request for a wedding cake.

Silva, who is Catholic and whose bakery in the past has made cakes for Christian holidays that featured religious imagery, said she was pleased to learn she was “not [only] morally right but also legally right.”

Jack told 7NEWS that he plans to appeal the decision. “I find it offensive that the Colorado Civil Rights Division considers the baker’s claims that Bible verses were discriminatory as the reason for denying my claim,” he said.

[ABC 7NEWS]

TIME justice

Fraternity Plans to Sue Rolling Stone Over Campus-Rape Article

The university's chapter of Phi Kappa Psi plans to "pursue all available legal action against the magazine"

The University of Virginia chapter of Phi Kappa Psi said Monday it plans to sue Rolling Stone magazine, one day after the publication retracted a controversial story about a gang rape allegedly committed by some of the fraternity’s members.

“After 130 days of living under a cloud of suspicion as a result of reckless reporting by Rolling Stone Magazine, today the Virginia Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi announced plans to pursue all available legal action against the magazine,” it said.

The announcement follows the release of a lengthy investigation into Rolling Stone’s handling of the story by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. That report, issued Sunday, found significant problems at every stage of the reporting, editing and fact-checking process and called the piece “a story of journalistic failure that was avoidable.”

Rolling Stone has apologized for the discredited story, although publisher Jann Wenner has reportedly chosen not to fire anyone as a result.

“The report by Columbia University’s School of Journalism demonstrates the reckless nature in which Rolling Stone researched and failed to verify facts in its article that erroneously accused Phi Kappa Psi of crimes its members did not commit,” Stephen Scipione, president of the Virginia Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi, said in the statement. “This type of reporting serves as a sad example of a serious decline of journalistic standards.”

The Nov. 19 publication of the Rolling Stone story upended the idyllic campus, turning it into the heated center of the national debate over campus sexual assault. The fraternity’s house was vandalized as outrage over the allegations in the story spread. But questions were soon raised about the credibility of the story. And in March, Charlottesville police said investigators were “not able to conclude to any substantive degree” that the incident had occurred.

“Clearly our fraternity and its members have been defamed, but more importantly we fear this entire episode may prompt some victims to remain in the shadows, fearful to confront their attackers,” Scipione said. “If Rolling Stone wants to play a real role in addressing this problem, it’s time to get serious.”

Students say the unraveling of Rolling Stone’s story has helped redeem the fraternity’s reputation on campus. “I think people have a great deal of remorse about how they spoke about Phi Psi in the fall,” says Abraham Axler, UVA’s student-council president.

The national Phi Kappa Psi fraternity has not yet decided whether it will join any legal action filed by the UVA chapter.

“We could do any array of things between us supporting them, partnering with them, or standing on the sidelines. We have not made those decisions on a national organization level yet. We plan on a release later today at some point ” said Chad Stegemiller, Phi Kappa Psi’s national assistant executive director.

Timothy Burke, a lawyer who represents fraternities and sororities, believes the detailed examination of Rolling Stone’s missteps in the Columbia report will help Phi Kappa Psi’s case.

“The potential for punitive damages are great in this case because Rolling Stone so badly blew every ethical journalistic obligation, according to what the Columbia school of journalism has to say,” says Burke, a partner at Fraternal Law Partners.

Any lawsuit would open the fraternity to potentially damaging information unearthed during the discovery process, such as evidence of underage drinking or drug use, but Burke says it’s unlikely to be enough to outweigh the benefits of bringing the case in the face of such shocking allegations.

“Any plaintiff’s council is going to advise his clients about the risks of litigation and what can happen in terms of discovery,” he says. “I would not be shocked to find out that underage students had a drink or two in the fraternity house. But that’s very different than saying that multiple members of that chapter engaged in gang rape.”

Read next: Rolling Stone Apologizes, Retracts Discredited Rape Story

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Supreme Court

The Robert Menendez Corruption Charges Undermine the Supreme Court

Ranking member Sen. Bob Menendez listens to testimony during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, in Washington on March 11, 2015.
Mark Wilson–Getty Images Ranking member Sen. Bob Menendez listens to testimony during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, in Washington on March 11, 2015.

The Supreme Court said super PACs aren't prone to corruption. Prosecutors are alleging otherwise in a case against Sen. Robert Menendez.

Correction appended, April 2

In his 2010 State of the Union, President Obama famously criticized the Supreme Court’s logic on a campaign finance decision even as several justices sat in the audience.

Now, prosecutors at the U.S. Justice Department have found an even better way to make the case.

In their indictment of New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, prosecutors have called foul on one of the central arguments for the court’s interpretation of campaign finance law in the Citizens United decision.

The indictment alleges that Florida opthamologist Solomon Melgen corruptly showered Menedez with gifts intended to influence official acts, from procuring visas for his foreign girlfriends to intervening in a dispute over Medicare billing. Among those things of value, according to prosecutors, was $600,000 in donations from Melgen’s company, Vitreo-Retinal Consultants, earmarked to help Menedez’s reelection through a super PAC called Majority PAC.

Those donations came two years after Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for a majority of the court in Citizens United v. FEC, ruled that such contributions to outside groups not directly controlled by candidates presented no risk of corruption or the appearance of corruption.

“This Court now concludes that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption,” Kennedy wrote. “That speakers may have influence over or access to elected officials does not mean that those officials are corrupt. And the appearance of influence or access will not cause the electorate to lose faith in this democracy.”

This argument was central to the Supreme Court’s decision to allow outside groups to collect and spend unlimited amounts of money to explicitly call for the election and defeat of a candidate for federal office. Since the money technically went to an organization not controlled by the candidate, the court reasoned, there was no sufficient government interest to stop it.

The indictment of Menendez, however, reveals in great detail the extent to which “independent” groups like Majority PAC have found ways to operate in close coordination with the candidate. And if Menendez is convicted, the case will prove that corruption can still be facilitated through these outside groups.

“The Citizens United court majority was obviously wrong in 2010 when it declared that independent expenditures can’t corrupt,” says Paul Ryan, an attorney for the Campaign Legal Center, who has long been critical of the decision. “Now we have concrete alleged evidence of how independent expenditures do corrupt.”

The indictment alleges that Melgen gave the money to support Menendez in two checks of $300,000. The first check was given on June 1, 2012, the very day when Melgen served on the host committee of Menendez’s annual fundraising event in New Jersey. Melgen allegedly gave the check to “a close personal friend” of the Senator at the fundraiser, who sent the check by FedEx to a person working to raise money for Majority PAC with a note saying “earmarked for New Jersey.” (That clearly meant Menendez. Majority PAC focused its spending on Democratic Senate races, and he was the only Democratic Senate candidate that year from New Jersey.)

Melgen issued a second check on October 12, 2012, less than a month before the election, prosecutors allege. An email from a fundraiser that accompanied the second check also read “earmarked for New Jersey.”

About six days after Melgen issued the first check, Menendez allegedly advocated on Melgen’s behalf in a Medicare billing dispute with the acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. About a month later, Menendez sought a meeting with the Secretary of Health and Human Services to discuss Melgen’s concerns.

“During Menendez’s meeting with the Secretary of HHS, Menendez advocated on behalf of Melgen’s position in his Medicare billing dispute, focusing on Melgen’s specific case and asserting that Melgen was being treated unfairly,” the indictment reads. “The Secretary of HHS disagreed with Menendez’s position.”

After Melgen gave the second $300,000 check, Melgen separately emailed Menendez and a fundraiser for Senate Majority PAC a document asking again for Health and Human Services to intervene on his behalf in the Medicare billing dispute, the indictment claims. The fundraiser for the Senate Majority PAC wrote back by email that he would pass the information on to another senator, identified in the legal documents as Senator 3. “Dear Sal, I’m going to see him on Tuesday. I will give this to him directly. Is that ok?”

Menendez has maintained this innocence, and says he plans to fight the charges.

Correction: This post initially misidentified the senator that a fundraiser for Senate Majority PAC promised to communicate with on Melgen’s behalf.

Read next: New Jersey Senator Faces Corruption Charges

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