Well, well, well. Another Obama ally off the hook. Last month, it was Chris Dodd who escaped accountability for his Countrywide sweetheart home loan deals. This week, it’s failed Commerce Secretary nominee Bill Richardson. The decision to drop federal corruption charges against Richardson was made by…top officials in crime-coddling Attorney General Eric Holder’s Department of Injustice.
Birds of a feather skate together:
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and former high-ranking members of his administration won’t be criminally charged in a yearlong federal investigation into pay-to-play allegations involving one of the Democratic governor’s large political donors, someone familiar with the case said.
The decision not to pursue indictments was made by top Justice Department officials, according to a person familiar with the investigation, who asked not to be identified because federal officials had not disclosed results of the probe.
“It’s over. There’s nothing. It was killed in Washington,” the person told The Associated Press.
A federal grand jury began an investigation in 2008 into a possible pay-to-play scheme in which lucrative work on state bond deals went to a Richardson donor. The federal probe derailed Richardson’s appointment as commerce secretary in President Barack Obama’s administration.
Richardson withdrew his nomination in January, saying the investigation would have delayed his confirmation although he said expected to be cleared.
Of course he did.
Chapter One of Culture of Corruption fills you in on all of Richardson’s shady pay-for-play schemes. A relevant excerpt for you from my section on Richardson:
The White House transition team knew about the pay-to-play scandal involving a California company, CDR Financial Products, well before Obama unwisely fêted Richardson’s ability to show “how government can act as a partner to support our businesses.” FBI and federal prosecutors launched their probe of CDR’s activities in New Mexico in the summer of 2008.
The feds had been digging into a nationwide web of favor-trading between financial firms and politicians overseeing local government bond markets. CDR was tied to a doomed bond deal in Alabama which, according to Bloomberg News, threatened to cause the biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. CDR raked in nearly $1.5 million in fees from a New Mexico state financial agency after donating more than $100,000 to Richardson’s efforts to register Hispanic and American Indian voters and to pay for expenses at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, the news service reported. The state agency that awarded the money consisted of five Richardson appointees and five members of his gubernatorial cabinet. CDR made contributions both shortly before and after securing consultant work with the state of New Mexico. CDR’s president also contributed $29,000 to Obama’s presidential campaign.
It took 33 days before Team Obama threw Richardson and his ethical baggage off the bus. On January 4, 2009, Richardson announced his withdrawal. “Let me say unequivocally that I and my Administration (sic) have acted properly in all matters and that this investigation will bear out that fact,” he told NBC News. “But I have concluded that the ongoing investigation also would have forced an untenable delay in the confirmation process.” Obama gave the obligatory send-off: “”It is a measure of his willingness to put the nation first that he has removed himself as a candidate for the Cabinet to avoid any delay in filling this important economic post at this critical time.”
But it is a measure of Obama’s obliviousness that he nominated the ethically-challenged Richardson in the first place. Mother Jones writer James Ridgeway’s comment on the day of Richardson’s withdrawal proved quite prescient: “It may be premature to say that Obama and his team have too high a tolerance for corruption. But this first self-destruct among his cabinet picks could well prove all the more damaging because it’s something they should have seen coming from miles away.”
More: Babalu Blog notes that Richardson was in Cuba when the decision came down.