Sen. Robert Menendez twice tried to intervene on behalf of pal and major campaign donor Dr. Salomon Melgen in the optometrist's ongoing battle with Medicare over alleged fraud, the Washington Post and New York Times report. Melgen is accused of overbilling Uncle Sam to the tune of $8.9 million—he allegedly would stretch out a single vial of a drug among multiple patients, then bill Medicare as if they'd each gotten a full dose.
Menendez tried first in 2009 and again in 2011 to convince Medicare officials they were being unfair to Melgen. Menendez's office says the senator didn't know of any fraud investigation; he was just raising concerns that the rules were ambiguous or hard to understand. After an initial period of apparent shock, Menendez has begun a forceful backstage push back against the allegations swirling around him, attempting to convince Democrat pundits that the scandal is trumped up, Politico reports. (Read more Robert Menendez stories.)