There must be something legitimate to the allegation that New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and/or his aides pushed state business to a company that was a ample supporter of Richardson’s campaigns and other activities ($100,000 for Richardson and pals to travel to the Democratic Convention, for example). Richardson has withdrawn himself from Obama’s future cabinet, where he was slated to become Secretary of Commerce, citing the desire to avoid a lengthy and distracting confirmation process. Here’s part of a statement from Richardson that the Obama transition team released to the press.
…when the President-elect asked me to serve as Secretary of Commerce, I felt a duty to answer the call. I felt that duty particularly because America is facing such extraordinary economic challenges. The Department of Commerce must play an important role in solving them by helping to grow the new jobs and businesses America so badly needs.
It is also because of that sense of urgency about the work of the Commerce Department that I have asked the President-elect not to move forward with my nomination at this time. I do so with great sorrow. But a pending investigation of a company that has done business with New Mexico state government promises to extend for several weeks or, perhaps, even months.
Let me say unequivocally that I and my Administration have acted properly in all matters and that this investigation will bear out that fact. But I have concluded that the ongoing investigation also would have forced an untenable delay in the confirmation process.
One of three things happened here: (1) The vetting process for Richardson was less thorough because he had already been through the intense media scrutiny of a presidential race; (2) the vetting process for Richardson was supposed to be just as a thorough as it was for everyone else, but the vetters screwed up; or (3) Richardson wasn’t completely forthcoming with the vetters and with Obama. It is possible that (1) or (2) was combined with (3).
Richardson, who will return to being governor of New Mexico and fight the charges out of the national spotlight, would have been the highest-ranking Hispanic in the Obama Administration.