Well, apparently I came back from vacation to quite a busy news day – Governor Bill Richardson (D-NM) has withdrawn his nomination to be Obama’s Secretary of Commerce. Richardson, meanwhile, will keep his position of governor while he’s facing a federal grand jury investigation. That investigation involves allegations that he exchanged government contracts for contributions to three of his political committees. Richardson denies that he did anything wrong, but the investigation won’t be finished before he has to go to a Senate confirmation hearing, and that could delay his confirmation. Richardson put out the following statement:
For nearly three decades, I have been honored to serve my state and our nation in Congress, at the U.N., as Secretary of Energy and as governor. So 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. Given the gravity of the economic situation the nation is facing, I could not in good conscience ask the President-elect and his Administration to delay for one day the important work that needs to be done.
So, for now, I will remain in the job I love, Governor of New Mexico, and will continue to work every day, with Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish, to make a positive difference in the lives of New Mexicans. I believe she will be a terrific governor in the future. I appreciate the confidence President-elect Obama has shown in me, and value our friendship and working partnership. I told him that I am eager to serve in the future in any way he deems useful. And like all Americans, I pray for his success and the success of our beloved country.
And the following is President-Elect Obama’s statement:
It is with deep regret that I accept Governor Bill Richardson’s decision to withdraw his name for nomination as the next Secretary of Commerce. Governor Richardson is an outstanding public servant and would have brought to the job of Commerce Secretary and our economic team great insights accumulated through an extraordinary career in federal and state office. It is a measure of his willingness to put the nation first that he has removed himself as a candidate for the Cabinet in order to avoid any delay in filling this important economic post at this critical time. Although we must move quickly to fill the void left by Governor Richardson’s decision, I look forward to his future service to our country and in my administration.
So, there you go – the New Mexicans get stuck with an allegedly corrupt Governor, Obama is without a Commerce Secretary, and he is stuck in the middle of yet another pay-and-play scandal. He really has not had much good luck since getting elected.
I’ll continue to follow this story (as well as the Blagojevich story). I think that we’ll probably have news on the Blagojevich story sooner though, since it looks like this investigation could take a while.
Honestly, I’m kinda getting tired of hearing about all these corrupt politicians. Why can’t Americans just have some good civil servants for a while? Holding office should be about helping your country, not about lining your pockets.
I wonder, if he is cleared of any wrongdoing, and Obama is reelected, if Obama will put him in his 2012 cabinet. Only time will tell (but I hope Obama isn’t reelected – 4 years of Obama will be too much anyway).