MSNBC is reporting that New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is withdrawing his own nomination as Commerce Secretary due to an investigation by the FBI.
He has said he will "remain in the job I love," governor of New Mexico. Obama's camp has responded with accepting the withdraw and will make some sort of statement later, as will Richardson. Links to follow.
According to Andrea Mitchell, "there is a contractor who was a contributor to Richardson's presidential campaign" which got lucrative state contracts and that relationship is being investigated to ensure there is no quid pro quo.
The sentiment seems to be that the timing involved is the problem. Mitchell says Richardson not being on the Obama starting team is a problem and that this dims his future considerably.
Seems to me that there must be some serious allegations here that cannot be immediately dispensed with, otherwise I would think filling the Commerce Secretariat could wait for a while.
No word on whether Obama is expected to make a formal announcement. I'm sure he'll be asked about it.
A federal grand jury is investigating whether a financial firm improperly won more than $1.4 million in work for the state of New Mexico shortly after making contributions to political action committees of Gov. Bill Richardson (D).
The probe focuses on whether the governor's office urged a state agency to hire CDR Financial Products. The probe is in a highly active stage at a time when President-elect Barack Obama has chosen Richardson as his nominee for secretary of commerce, according to two sources familiar with the investigation.
In the New Mexico case, the FBI and federal prosecutors are investigating how CDR, based in Beverly Hills, Calif., won lucrative fees from the New Mexico Finance Authority in 2004 soon after donating $100,000 to two Richardson organizations.
From 2003 to 2004, CDR Financial gave $75,000 to Sí Se Puede, which paid for expenses at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. CDR's president and founder, David Rubin, also gave $25,000 to Moving America Forward, which funded Richardson's efforts to register Hispanic and American Indian voters.
Rubin was generous to Obama's campaign as well, giving $29,000 to help elect the senator to the White House. Yesterday, the Obama transition office declined to comment on the development.
On MSNBC, Steve Terrell of the Santa Fe New Mexican is reporting details of the charges and reporting that Richardson has avoided questions about the controversy at recent press conferences, something Terrell said is unusual for the governor.
UPDATE I: For a little extra information, Setrak diaried the controversy in December.
UPDATE II: Richardson has issued the following statement to MSNBC:
"Let me say unequivocally that I and my Administration have acted properly in all matters and that this investigation will bear out that fact," he said Sunday in a report by NBC News' Andrea Mitchell. "But I have concluded that the ongoing investigation also would have forced an untenable delay in the confirmation process."
He said he plans to continue in his role as governor. "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."
Obama said Sunday he accepted Richardson's decision to withdraw with 'deep regret.'
"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," Obama said.
No names have been put forth for a replacement:
Obama on Sunday gave no indication whom he might name to replace Richardson as the nominee but said "we must move quickly to fill the void left by Governor Richardson's decision."
UPDATE III: via peace voter, a YouTube of a December 17 KRQE (New Mexico TV) report on the scandal:
FINAL UPDATE: ABC news is reporting that
Sources tell ABC News that officials on the Obama Transition Team feel that before he was formally offered the job of commerce secretary, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson was not forthcoming with them about the federal investigation that is looking into whether the governor steered a state contract towards a major financial contributor.
Once the investigation became more widely known through national media reports last month, sources tell ABC News, the Obama Transition Team realized the FBI would not be able to give Richardson a clean political bill of health before the new administration is ready to send his nomination up to the Senate for confirmation.
Richardson is said to have stated that he was forthcoming and discussed the investigation with the team as part of his selection process. He also pointed to the fact that local newspapers have been covering the controversy for some time.
President-elect Obama did not ask Richardson to withdraw his name from consideration, sources from both camps say, but the fact that the confirmation seemed untenable in the short term was apparent to everyone involved.
There were some discussions about whether the confirmation process could be delayed a few months until the investigation concluded, sources say, but it became clear that wouldn't happen any time soon, and no one wanted to be seen as pressuring law enforcement officials to wrap up their investigation.