Remember that federal investigation into an alleged pay-to-play deal that derailed New Mexico governor Bill Richardson’s bid to be commerce secretary? Well, it’s looking like the governor and his top aides will avoid charges.
But the way things shook out may only raise more questions.
A “person familiar with the investigation” told the AP that top Justice Department officials had made the decision not to bring charges, adding that the probe “was killed in Washington.”
Investigators were looking into New Mexico’s 2004 decision to award lucrative contracts for managing bonds transactions to CDR Financial Products. The firm gave over $110,000 to Richardson political committees between 2003 and 2005. One $75,000 contribution came less than a week before CDR was selected for the contract. The focus of the probe had been on the governor and three of his close aides or advisers, one of whom, David Harris, led the state finance agency that officially picked CDR.
When Richardson withdrew from contention for the commerce job in January, he said he expected to be cleared, but that the investigation would have delayed his confirmation.
So, did politics play a role in the decision to quash the probe? It would be a mistake, of course, to put too much weight on the off-the-record word of one anonymous source. Still, Richardson, a former Energy Secretary, UN ambassador, and chair of the Democratic Governor’s Association, is about as well-connected as they come in Democratic circles, and his endorsement of Obama last year came at a critical time in the campaign. So it’s not far-fetched to think that higher-ups at DOJ could have intervened for reasons that went beyond the impartial administration of justice.
But right now, we need to know a lot more before jumping to any conclusions.