Richardson withdraws bid to be commerce secretary
Jan 4 04:15 PM US/Eastern
By NEDRA PICKLER
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson on Sunday announced that he was withdrawing his nomination to be President-elect Barack Obama's commerce secretary amid a grand jury investigation into how some of his political donors won a lucrative state contract.
Richardson's withdrawal was the first disruption of Obama's Cabinet process and the second "pay-to-play" investigation that has touched Obama's transition to the presidency. The president-elect has remained above the fray in both the case of arrested Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and the New Mexico case.
A federal grand jury is investigating how a California company that contributed to Richardson's political activities won a New Mexico transportation contract worth more than $1 million. Richardson said in a statement issued by the Obama transition office that the investigation could take weeks or months but expressed confidence it will show he and his administration acted properly.
"I have concluded that the ongoing investigation also would have forced an untenable delay in the confirmation process," Richardson said. "Given the gravity of the economic situation the nation is facing, I could not in good conscience ask the president-elect and his administration to delay for one day the important work that needs to be done."
CDR and its CEO, David Rubin have contributed at least $110,000 to three political committees formed by Richardson, according to an AP review of campaign finance records.
The largest donation, $75,000, was made by CDR in June 2004—a couple of months after the transportation financing arrangement won state approval—to a political committee that Richardson established before the Democratic National Convention that year.
In the Illinois case, Blagojevich is accused of trying to sell the Senate seat that Obama gave up to become president. Obama and two of his top aides have been interviewed by the U.S. attorney's office pursuing the case but have denied any knowledge of such a scheme and have not been accused by prosecutors of any wrongdoing.