DECEMBER 15, 2008
Barack Obama hasn’t even moved into the White House and already his administration is embroiled in a second corruption scandal, this week the grand jury investigation of a cabinet member who’s the governor of New Mexico.
The week after his friend and political ally—Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich—gets indicted for operating a massive bribery scheme, the president elect’s new Commerce Secretary is being investigated for giving a shady company a lucrative state deal after it donated tens of thousands of dollars to his political action committee.
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson awarded a California-based financial firm a coveted state contract even though the company had a documented history of doing bad work, including pushing an Alabama county into potential municipal bankruptcy. New Mexico’s Finance Authority—which is controlled by the governor—suspiciously rewarded the firm, CDR Financial Products Inc, $1.5 million to do similarly bad work there.
The governor appoints five of 12 directors to the state’s finance authority, including the chairman. Five other directors are members of the governor’s cabinet, which means that Richardson essentially runs the agency. The suspicious deal caught the attention of federal authorities because CDR Financial Products had just given Richardson a generous $100,000 to, among other things, help pay for expenses at the 2004 Democratic Convention.
Investigators are scrutinizing whether Richardson, a second-term governor who was Bill Clinton’s Energy Secretary, influenced the hiring of the shady financial company. A well-connected politician, Richardson also served 15 years in Congress and was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in the late 1990s.
Richardson wanted to be president, but his 2008 primary run was short lived and he quickly endorsed Obama after dropping out of the race. His federal probe comes as Camp Obama still reels from Blagojevich’s bombshell indictment which accuses the disgraced governor of trying to sell Obama’s old Senate seat.
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