Menendez: Lawyer's query to U.S. attorney prompts a new salvo from Kean

Lawyer's query to U.S. attorney prompts a new salvo from Kean
October 29, 2006  Star-Ledger
Republican state Sen. Tom Kean Jr. yesterday questioned why Democratic U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez would enlist the services of one the state's top defense lawyers if he isn't under a federal criminal investigation.

Menendez has said the lawyer, Joseph Hayden, contacted the U.S. attorney around the time a subpoena was issued for records from a federally funded nonprofit agency that paid more than $300,000 to rent a row house that Menendez owned in Union City.

Hayden was doing a "favor" for the campaign, Menendez spokesman Matt Miller said, not personally representing Menendez. Miller declined to say who in the campaign reached out to Hayden and asked him to make the call, except to say it was not Menendez.

"We were trying to find out what was going on," Miller said of tapping Hayden. "We were just looking to find out in the midst of all these rumors what the facts were."

Miller declined to say what the campaign gleaned from Hayden's conversation with federal authorities. "I'm just not going to go there," he said.

Such a scenario makes no sense, Kean said during a press conference in Mountainside yesterday.

"Every criminal defense attorney knows that you don't reach out to the U.S. Attorney's Office during a pending criminal investigation unless you are representing a subject, target or witness," he said.

As an attorney for the campaign, Hayden would not have had the "standing" to inquire about the case, said Kean's campaign counsel Scott Weber of the Patton Boggs law firm in Washington, D.C. "The first question (from the U.S. Attorney's Office) would have been 'Who do you represent?'" said Weber, a former federal prosecutor. "If you're not representing someone, the conversation ends."

Hayden, who could not be reached yesterday, earlier told The Star-Ledger that he and Menendez never talked after the call, even though Menendez has said they did.

Miller said yesterday that there was confusion because "there was no substantive conversation; the senator called to thank him."

Menendez's federal campaign financial reports show no payment to Hayden for legal work, nor any in-kind donation from Hayden.

"He was never officially retained as counsel," Miller said. "He did it as an individual volunteer activity, which is completely permissible under campaign finance law."

With the polls showing the campaign a virtual dead heat 10 days before the election, Menendez continues to insist that there is no ongoing federal criminal investigation.

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