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?