Looks like the chickens of Bill Richardson’s pay-to-play scandal have come home to roost. Let it be the first of many ethics-tainted Obama nominations to go down in flames. Adios, Bill.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, tapped in December by President-elect Barack Obama to serve as secretary of Commerce, has withdrawn his name for the position, citing a pending investigation into a company that has done business with his state.
“Let me say unequivocally that I and my Administration have acted properly in all matters and that this investigation will bear out that fact,” he said Sunday in a report by NBC News. “But I have concluded that the ongoing investigation also would have forced an untenable delay in the confirmation process.”
Flashback: Bill Richardson’s own pay-to-play scandal?
Refresher via WaPo:
A federal grand jury is investigating whether a financial firm improperly won more than $1.4 million in work for the state of New Mexico shortly after making contributions to political action committees of Gov. Bill Richardson (D).
The probe focuses on whether the governor’s office urged a state agency to hire CDR Financial Products. The probe is in a highly active stage at a time when President-elect Barack Obama has chosen Richardson as his nominee for secretary of commerce, according to two sources familiar with the investigation.
The grand jury in Albuquerque is expected to hear testimony today from several key witnesses, including officials at Richard’s political action committees and bankers at J.P. Morgan who worked with CDR on the state’s investments.
The inquiry is part of a long-running nationwide investigation into “pay-to-play” practices in local government bond markets. In other cities, federal investigators are questioning whether financial firms have lavished politicians with money and gifts in exchange for fee-paying work advising municipal and local governments on investments. Authorities indicted the mayor of Birmingham, Ala., this month on charges of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts and loans from a firm that led the city into toxic investments and massive bankruptcy.
In the New Mexico case, the FBI and federal prosecutors are investigating how CDR, based in Beverly Hills, Calif., won lucrative fees from the New Mexico Finance Authority in 2004 soon after donating $100,000 to two Richardson organizations.
From 2003 to 2004, CDR Financial gave $75,000 to Sí Se Puede, which paid for expenses at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. CDR’s president and founder, David Rubin, also gave $25,000 to Moving America Forward, which funded Richardson’s efforts to register Hispanic and American Indian voters.
Rubin was generous to Obama’s campaign as well, giving $29,000 to help elect the senator to the White House. Yesterday, the Obama transition office declined to comment on the development.
Who’s next? Perhaps the Richardson bungle will embolden Republicans for a fight over Eric Holder.
Also on the withdrawal wish list: Crooked Carol Browner.