In a Sunday surprise Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) withdrew his name for nomination to position of Sec. of Commerce due to a grand jury investigation into pay to play allegations in his state. It seems that Richardson has become the first casualty of the political fallout from the Blagojevich scandal.
Richardson said in a statement this morning, “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.”
According to the AP, a grand jury is investigating the dealings between a company called CDR Financial Products and someone in Richardson’s administration to push legislation through. Because of the ongoing Blagojevich scandal, anyone, even indirectly tainted with pay to play allegations is toxic right now. Due to this investigation, Richardson’s confirmation could have been held up for months.
Judging from Obama’s statement, Richardson took it on himself to withdraw his name, “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.”
By reading between the lines, it is clear that Richardson isn’t the target of the investigation, or else Obama would not have mentioned a possible future role in his administration. The last thing Obama needs right now is the distraction of anyone with a hint of pay to play in his administration.
Even if it was someone else in his administration, Richardson still will be responsible to a degree for anyone who was involved in pay to play. Richardson did the right thing by withdrawing his name, and once this is cleared up, it is likely that he will have a role in the Obama administration.
Commerce Secretary was a consolation prize for Richardson after he was passed over for Sec. of State, anyway. This is a critical position in the administration, so it is expected that Obama will have a replacement nominee picked very quickly.