Richardson Out As Obama's Commerce Secretary

WASHINGTON (AP) -- New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said Sunday he would drop his effort to become commerce secretary in the Obama administration, as a federal investigation into a state contract awarded to his political donors became a growing threat to his nomination.

Richardson insisted he would be cleared in the investigation and President-elect Barack Obama stood by the governor as an "outstanding public servant." But both men said it has become clear that a grand jury probe would not be finished in time for Richardson's confirmation hearings and could keep him from filling the post in a timely matter.

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 nearly $1.5 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.

A senior Obama adviser said Richardson gave assurances before he was nominated last month that he would come out fine in the investigation and the president-elect had no reason to doubt it. But as the grand jury continued to pursue the case, it became clear that confirmation hearings would have to be delayed for six weeks or even longer until the investigation was complete, said the adviser, speaking on condition of anonymity about the discussions because they were private.

Aides to both men insisted that Richardson made the decision to withdraw and was not pushed out by Obama. But one Democrat involved in discussions over the matter said transition officials became increasingly nervous during the last couple of weeks that the investigation was a bigger problem than Richardson had originally indicated.

Richardson spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said the governor believed the grand jury matter would be cleared up by this time, but decided to withdraw when it became clear it wouldn't. "It was the governor's idea, and his decision," Gallegos said.

Obama said he has accepted Richardson's withdrawal, first reported by NBC News, "with deep regret."

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  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on Jan 5, 2009 at 07:31 AM
    It just goes to show again and again that the democratic party seems to reflect corruption time and again. The media has to search for corruption from the Repubs and yet they have no choice to report when so much of the democratic scandal just falls into their laps. Tad, all of "the chosen ones" associations were no even mentioned other that what Fox news did. I guess they knew they would get plenty of stories from the new president elect. The guy isn't even in office yet. Just makes you think that voters wanted corruption in the office, look at Bill and Hillary. I guess if you have enough money, you can buy yourself into the presidency. Well dems, bask in the glow.
  • by Tad Location: Jamesville on Jan 5, 2009 at 05:54 AM
    This guy may not be from Chicago but he is cut from the same cloth as Blagojevich, Rezko, Emmanual, Harris and the Chicago hustler himself, obuma. This is going to be an entertaining and telling four years. We may end up with old botox head Biden after an impeachment of the "one for whom we have been waiting". Who knows with this bunch?
  • by Steve Location: Kinston on Jan 4, 2009 at 07:30 PM
    The article speaks for itself. Another of our illustrious pols having to face the music. Of course they are always innocent and are sure of being cleared of wrongdoings. We shall see.
  • by bandanaman247 Location: overhere on Jan 4, 2009 at 06:02 PM
    couldnt of said it better Mr T ..thanks you :)
  • by Bob Location: Belhaven on Jan 4, 2009 at 05:44 PM
    Golly Gee! all of the "one's" people are being charged with crimes and scandals. Why has the news media turned on the "one's" people? Oh I know President George Bush made them do it! hahaha
  • by MrT Location: LaNC on Jan 4, 2009 at 05:29 PM
    With the lies and scandals sure to come to the Obama administration, Bill Richardson should get down on his knees and give thanks that he wont be in the middle of it.More than likely the reason he didnt get the job was he didnt have enough suntan.

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