New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson withdrew his name from consideration as Secretary of Commerce as a federal grand jury investigates whether his administration gave “pay for play” contracts to a California financier.
Richardson said that he feared the investigation would create an “untenable delay” in the confirmation process.
As I stated earlier, Richardson would have been a friend to the entertainment business, with his state having one of the most lucrative packages of incentive programs for filmmakers. He practically made that a centerpiece of his efforts to lure industry donors. He was overshadowed by Obama, Clinton and Edwards, and with an regular guy persona, as well as a certain penchant for flubs and missteps, he didn’t have the polish of other candidates.
What is surprising is how Richardson made it through the vetting process. As the New York Times reports, news of the investigation has been out there since August. So either the Obama team was not aware of it, or didn’t believe that the investigation posed a serious enough distraction to matter. During this transition period of vetting, most of the focus has been on contributions made to Bill Clinton’s library and foundation, as Obama tapped Hillary Clinton as his choice for secretary of state. The Times recently reported on a developer who gave to the former president at the same time Sen. Clinton helped secure financial assistance for one of the developer’s projects.
His withdrawal does spare Obama any lingering drama of having Richardson in a Cabinet post alongside Hillary Clinton. As one fund-raiser just noted to me, there are three very happy people today: Clinton, her husband and James Carville.