- The Washington Times - Monday, September 17, 2007

Sen. Robert Menendez is denying that he steered any lobbying business to his former chief of staff, Kay LiCausi, amid reports that a federal grand jury is looking into conflicts of interest involving the New Jersey Democrat.

“Once the U.S. Attorney’s Office has completed its review, we’re confident that it will be clear that Senator Menendez has acted appropriately in all instances,” said Marc Elias, the senator’s attorney.

Mr. Elias said Mr. Menendez “is happy to offer recommendations on behalf of any number of his former staff.”

Miss LiCausi, who served as Mr. Menendez’s chief of staff from 1998 to 2002 when he was in the House of Representatives, has risen quickly in New Jersey’s lobbying circles. Last year, Miss LiCausi’s firm, Mulroy, LiCausi & Gibbs LLC, ranked tenth in New Jersey in lobbying receipts, reporting $1.3 million.

Miss LiCausi did not return phone messages for this story. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey declined to comment.

One of Miss LiCausi’s biggest lobbying clients in recent years, N.J.-based Liberty Health System Inc., received a subpoena and is cooperating with the U.S. Attorney’s investigation, said spokesman John McKeegan.

Miss LiCausi received $280,000 from Liberty Health from January 2003 to February, he said. Mr. McKeegan declined to discuss the specifics of the subpoena or the circumstances of Miss LiCausi’s hiring, citing the investigation.

Last month, the New York Times and the Star-Ledger of Newark reported that Liberty Health had been subpoenaed as a grand jury looks into whether Mr. Menendez helped Miss LiCausi or rewarded entities that hired her firm.

Though it’s not clear what, if any, role Mr. Menendez or Miss LiCausi played, several of her clients have won federal money.

Owned by Liberty Health, Jersey City Medical Center, for example, was slated to receive $1 million through a congressional earmark from the Department of Energy, government records show.

Another recent lobbying client of Miss LiCausi, Bergen Community College, last year won a $200,000 for its center for suburban criminal justice.

The school’s president, G. Jeremiah Ryan, said the lobbying contract with Miss LiCausi was reached before he came to the school.

Philip C. Dolce, director of Bergen’s center for suburban criminal justice, said Miss LiCausi played no role in winning the $200,000.

“I wouldn’t know her from a hole in the wall; she wasn’t involved in this at all,” said Mr. Dolce.

Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey paid Miss LiCausi at least $100,000 since 2005.

Miss LiCausi also won work from New Jersey Transit, the state-run public transportation system, which hired her under a no-bid arrangement worth $57,000. She lobbied for the Trans Hudson Express Tunnel project, officials said.

David Rebovich, a political science professor at Rider University in New Jersey, said Miss LiCausi’s rapid rise as a lobbyist isn’t surprising.

“It’s not unusual for a political insider to move into public relations and lobbying to do well quickly because they’ve made contacts as a staff member,” he said. “Whether or not any recommendations were made to obtain business for [Miss LiCausi], she was a highly visible person.”

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