New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has asked Barack Obama to withdraw his nomination to be Commerce Secretary. Obama has accepted his withdrawal..
As reported locally by Ken Camp on the Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate Richardson’s office released a statement this afternoon announcing his withdrawal. Ken Camp was a strong advocate for Richardson’s campaign for President.
As reported by the New Mexican, Richardson’s statement was released by his office and noted the following:
“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,” the governor said.”
In a statement by Obama released through Richardson’s office, Obama stated:
“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 …”
As noted in the Huffington Post:
“New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson abandoned his nomination to become commerce under pressure of a grand jury investigation into a state contract awarded to his political donors _ an investigation that threatened to embarrass President-elect Barack Obama. …A federal grand jury is investigating how a California company that contributed to Richardson’s political activities won a New Mexico transportation contract worth nearly $1.5 million. Richardson said in a statement issued by the Obama transition office that the investigation could take weeks or months but expressed confidence it will show he and his administration acted properly.”
I see two reasons why Richardson was forced by circumstances to withdraw. One certainly was the hint of pay to play politics that dominated the news with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich scandal over the nomination of a replacement Senator for Barack Obama’s seat. A second hint of scandal, even if not true, only focused the public’s attention more and more on the issue and away from Obama’s agenda.
The second reason was timing – Obama needs his cabinet appointments to hit the ground running and the grand jury investigation would only delay Richardson’s confirmation. Obama and the country need cabinet members to get busy tackling the problems left by Bush and the economic meltdown right away. Unfortunately Richardson’s problems left doubts as to when he would get Senate approval.