New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson Reported to be Cleared in Federal Investigation

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SANTA FE—An investigation by federal officials into a possible pay-to-play scheme organized by New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson will not result in criminal charges, according to a source.

The source, who wanted to remain nameless because the results of the investigation haven’t officially been disclosed yet, said that Justice Department officials will not seek indictments in the case.

The investigation, begun in 2008, looked into the possibility that campaign contributions played a role in the awarding of state bond projects. CDR Financial Products, a firm based in California, was chosen as an advisor for state transportation bond transactions in 2004. Aides to Governor Richardson had ties to the firm. David Harris was deputy chief of staff to Richardson before becoming executive director of the New Mexico Finance Authority, the body responsible for selecting CDR Financial Products. Michael Stratton served as a senior adviser to Richardson’s unsuccessful 2008 presidential bid. He was a consultant for CDR when the firm landed the state contract. Both men were subpoenaed in the investigation.

CDR collected $1.5 million from the deal, which used the firm’s services to raise funds and manage state bonds for a large transportation project.

Over $100,000 was contributed to Richardson’s political committees between 2003 and 2005 by CDR head David Rubin and the firm. The largest contribution, amounting to $75,000, came just a week before the contract was delivered.

CDR managed bonds that financed the $1.6 billion state transportation project – called GRIP, Governor Richardson’s Investment Partnership – which includes plans for a commuter rail service between Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

Richardson withdrew his name from consideration to be nominated as President Barack Obama’s Secretary of Commerce in January 2008, because of the investigation, though he did mention that he expected to be cleared. Richardson served as Secretary of Energy under President Bill Clinton.

Richardson is currently in Cuba with members of his staff on a trade mission to improve relations between the island nation and the United States. His spokesman, Gilbert Gallegos, did not respond immediately to e-mails about the investigation.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney in Albuquerque also declined to comment, saying he had no information on the findings of the Justice Department’s investigation.

The Finance Authority, made up of gubernatorial appointees and state executive branch administrators, issues bonds and assists in financing duties for both state and local authorities.

 

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