The wreck of Bill Richardson, who withdrew earlier today as President-elect Obama's nominee for Commerce Secretary, surely should have been anticipated by the Obama vetters. As previously reported by Mother Jones, the New Mexico governor has, over the last decade, left behind a wide trail of questionable business dealings, many of them involving the energy industry.
Obama's transition team apparently chose to ignore these past whiffs of scandal. They also seem to have been unfazed by the current federal investigation into a possible pay-to-play scandal, which was already well underway when Richardson's nomination was announced on December 3. Within two weeks of the nomination, the media was widely reportingthat Richardson was the subject of a grand jury probe in a "highly active stage."
Richardson insists that he and his administration "have acted properly in all matters" and that he is withdrawing his name from consideration only because "the ongoing investigation also would have forced an untenable delay in the confirmation process." But the accusations are pretty damning. The Washington Post reports:
The probe in New Mexico involves questions about a California firm, CDR Financial Products, and its president, David Rubin. The grand jury in Albuquerque is looking into whether the firm was given a contract with the New Mexico Finance Authority because of pressure from Richardson. CDR made $1.48 million advising the authority on interest-rate swaps and refinancing of funds related to $1.6 billion in transportation bonds issued by the agency, state officials confirmed.The firm and Rubin together gave $100,000 to two Richardson organizations shortly before winning those contracts.
Back in July 2007, when Richardson was a contender for the Democratic nomination, and was also being discussed as a possible vice-presidential pick for Hillary Clinton, I reported here on the considerable baggage Richardson carried when it came to his relationships in the private sector: