Gov. Bill Richardson, a tarnished future
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson infuriates supporters who cannot imagine him close to a cheesy scandal that compromises a bright future in public service.
WHY on Earth is New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson anywhere near a cheesy scandal that forced him to withdraw his name to be President-elect Obama's commerce secretary?
The question grates on his political fans, who imagined even bigger roles for him.
Oh sure, Richardson is presumed innocent, and there is every expectation the facts will lead to that conclusion. The puzzle is how a veteran congressman, a former U.N. ambassador, a former energy secretary and sitting governor with credible presidential aspirations drew the eyes of federal investigators.
Richardson is caught up in a "pay to play" scandal that only varies from the mess in Illinois in the details. A company specializing in helping governments and nonprofits secure competitive bids from banks and insurance companies made contributions of at least $110,000 to Richardson's political-action committee. The company subsequently received lucrative fees for work on a state bond-financing deal. Was there a connection?
The governor and his cohorts have the grave misfortune to be in the orbit of a crime that has raised nationwide suspicions of "pay to play" practices in municipal bond markets.
News of the federal investigation into Richardson's relationship with a suspect company was reported by the Albuquerque Journal in August. In 2004, The Associated Press reported that expenses for Richardson and his staff to attend the Democratic National Convention were heavily funded by companies that did business with the state.
None of this apparently bothered or was known to those vetting Richardson for Obama's Cabinet. Richardson's late, abrupt withdrawal is not explained.
Richardson would have been a welcome, experienced addition to Obama's inner circle of advisers and administrators. The president-elect has too much on his mind and public agenda to humor a political ally through wherever the grand jury investigation leads. Replacements are readily available.
Richardson's withdrawal stirs anger and frustration. A political talent on the injured-reserve list — and maybe lost to the team.
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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