Bill Richardson Under Investigation in Pay-For-Play Probe

Bill Richardson is under investigation for allegedly steering state funds to a major contributor.

It seems that Illinois’ legally challenged Gov. Rod Blagojevich is not the only close Barack Obama associate and Democratic governor being investigated by the feds for possibly selling government business in return for campaign contributions.

New Mexico’s Gov. Bill Richardson, who is the newly named Secretary of Commerce in Obama’s about-to-be Cabinet, is also being investigated by a federal grand jury in his home state for possibly steering state bond business from the New Mexico Financial Authority toward David Rubin, a significant campaign contributor, according to an NBC News report, among others.

NBC’s Lisa Myers reports that two former state officials say they’ve recently been questioned by a federal grand jury specifically about allegations that Richardson or aides pushed state business worth nearly $1.5 million in fees toward CDR Financial Products in 2004. The company is headquartered in Beverly Hills.

[…]

The probe is part of a broad national federal exploration of “pay-to-play,” in which government officials reap financial or other benefits in return for state business.

Richardson has ignored reporters’ questions on the federal investigation, while a spokesman says he’s confident the relationship was entirely appropriate and the governor expects state employees to cooperate fully with federal investigators. A CDR spokesman also said the transactions were appropriate.

Richardson has been in public life for a quarter century and this is the first I’ve heard of his integrity being questioned. “Under investigation” is a far cry from “strongly suspected,” let alone guilty. So, while I agree with Jonathan Stein that this is an annoyance for “No Drama Obama,” I’m not sure it’s any more than that.

What’s more interesting, really, is that there’s apparently a widespread federal probe of high level officials across the country engaging in this sort of activity. One wonders what this is based on. Is true graft (as opposed to the “The real crime is what’s legal” murkiness of political fundraising) much more common than realized? Or is this just a fishing expedition?

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, US Politics, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    One wonders what this is based on. Is true graft (as opposed to the “What’s a crime is what’s legal” murkiness of political fundraising) much more common than realized? Or is this just a fishing expedition?

    My guess is that what we’re seeing is confirmation of the long hel;d speculation that Rezko is singing like a Canary.

  2. Michael says:

    Is this the same David Rubin that was up to his elbows in the creation of our current financial crisis?

  3. Leisureguy says:

    The lead sentence asserts that Rod Blagojevich is a “close Barack Obama associate”. Do you have any idea of what that statement is based on? I have not seen any indications or reports (until this one) that Blgojevich is a “close associate” of Obama. I suspect that the writer just made this up. Very bad to start the piece with such a dubious assertion.

  4. Michael says:

    The lead sentence asserts that Rod Blagojevich is a “close Barack Obama associate”. Do you have any idea of what that statement is based on?

    That’s one of those nebulous definitions that mean different things to different people. Surely Blago is a closer associate to Obama than he is to the author, so maybe he felt justified in using it. On the other hand, Obama probably only considers a small portion of his numerous associations to be “close”.

  5. Leisureguy says:

    Well, I would think that a “close associate” would be someone who sees and meets with Obama regularly, is called upon for ideas (and in turn calls upon Obama for ideas), and the two families know each other. I don’t believe that’s true of Obama and Blagojevich.

  6. Dave Schuler says:

    Former Illinois Senate President Emil Jones has certainly been Obama’s primary sponsor in Illinois; Obama has characterized him as a “mentor”. Jones is also Blagojevich’s principle legislative ally. Jones, Blagojevich, and Obama can reasonably be considered to be in the same political faction in Illinois politics.

    Close associate, though? I think that Leisureguy, above, is pretty much on target.

  7. It could be the Bush DOJ trying to poison as many wells as possible before January 20.

  8. Bithead says:

    Doubtful, Dragon.
    Think; Wouldn’t it have been far better to do so prior to the election?

  9. Michael says:

    Doubtful, Dragon.
    Think; Wouldn’t it have been far better to do so prior to the election?

    Well in Blago’s case, the parts that made the news didn’t happen until either after the election, or close enough to it that it wouldn’t have been an option. But I agree, it’s doubtful.

    The timing in Blago was mostly because he was so sloppy about it post-election. The timing on Richardson is different, either they just got the evidence, or the search was prompted because of his nomination (or perhaps even when he was a Dem candidate).

    Either way, it doesn’t matter, he’s either innocent or guilty, regardless of the motive of the investigators.

  10. I just don’t think that the GOP is any less corrupt than the DNC. Nor do I think low level Democrats are less corrupt than the high level ones. So when I see a Republican adminstration, mere weeks away from turning into a pumpkin, opening a lot of investigations of high level Democrats, that seems to me like they’re just selectively prosecuting peopl to creating problems for the following administration.

    Especially when it’s a Republican administration that has a history of using corruption prosecutions for political purposes.

  11. Michael says:

    I see a Republican adminstration, mere weeks away from turning into a pumpkin, opening a lot of investigations of high level Democrats

    A lot? What is there, other than Blago and Richardson?

    I don’t know much about the Richardson case, but frankly it would have been criminal not to go after Blagojevich.

  12. Drew says:

    Wow, talk about a conspratorial mindset……..

    Dragon, when you watch a football game do you worry that the guys in the huddle are talking about you?

  13. Leisureguy says:

    Let’s not forget the Bush DoJ prosecution and conviction of Don Siegelman, a clear case of injustice.

  14. James Joyner says:

    Let’s not forget the Bush DoJ prosecution and conviction of Don Siegelman, a clear case of injustice.

    I voted for Don Siegelman but I don’t think there’s much doubt that he was involved in shady dealings with Richard Scrushy. I am, however, as always, deeply skeptical of giving prosecutors unlimited time periods to find “something” with which to charge prominent individuals.

  15. Leisureguy says:

    We’ll soon know more about the Siegelman case. I do recall an impressive array of US attorneys, both Republican and Democrat, saying that the prosecution was politically motivated and controlled.

  16. James Joyner says:

    I do recall an impressive array of US attorneys, both Republican and Democrat, saying that the prosecution was politically motivated and controlled.

    That’s not the same thing as “Siegelman is innocent.” But prosecution of political officials does tend to be political and, once the feds are on the scent, they tend to stay at it until they get their man.

  17. I am not surprised. They complained about the Clinton Drama which has prov en to be a dud. What’s up with all the crooks in Barack Odrama’s administration.

  18. drkate says:

    What is the big surprise about the ‘large scale federal investigation of pay to play’? The Chicago Gang is in charge now, they only play when they are paid. Everyone is going down with Obama. Obama isn’t even eligible for the postion and already his unconfirmed appointments are dropping like flies!!! lolololol

  19. JJ_ABQ says:

    Being from New Mexico I can smell the ousted Republican base behind this witch hunt on Bill Richardson (Heather Wilson/Pete Domenici [aka behind the firing of David Iglasias]). Bill Richardson has been the best thing to happen for the people of New Mexico (Latino/Native Americans) and the old boy network (Heather/Pete) push on with their thirst for Petrol/Coal dollars with probes like this.

    From the Native heartland

  20. Leisureguy says:

    “All the crooks in the Obama Administration”?? What “crooks” are you referring to? Certainly not Richardson: he’s just under investigation, not even indicted. We do have actual crooks from the Bush Administration, indicted *and* convicted—and, in one cased, saved by the President from going to prison because Bush thought the sentence, set in accordance with guidelines from his own DoJ, was too harsh—though Bush then did absolutely nothing to change the guidelines. And that was a conviction based on prosecution by a GOP Attorney General and a sentence (after the “guilty” verdict) by a GOP-appointed judge.