Bill Richardson Withdraws Name from Commerce Secretary Contention

New Mexico governor Bill Richardson recently announced that he was removing himself as President-Elect Barack Obama’s candidate for Secretary of Commerce because of a federal grand jury investigation into his state administration’s awarding of profitable contracts to a company that was a major campaign contributor.

A federal grand jury is investigating how CDR Financial Products, a Beverly Hills-based company that contributed to Richardson's political activities, won a New Mexico contract worth nearly $1.5 million to advise the state on infrastructure development and bond issues, the New York Times reports.

In yesterday’s statement Richardson confirms that the investigation may last several weeks “or perhaps even months.” He is withdrawing, he says, because of a “sense of urgency about the work of the Commerce Department” and “with great sorrow.” An ongoing investigation would have definitely caused a delay in the confirmation of a key seat in President-Elect Obama’s cabinet, the Secretary of Commerce will be key in assisting with the transition during the current economic crisis.

President-Elect Obama has said that he accepted the news “with great regret.” This announcement comes just days before the Senate is set to start confirmation hearings on some of the new President’s cabinet selections, and only a few weeks after another political scandal—that of Illinois governor Rod R. Blagojevich and the pay-for-play accusations he is facing surrounding the Senate seat vacated by the president-elect.

For us, it’s sad to see one of the most well-known Latino politicians fall prey to investigations of political corruption (even though deep inside we hope and know the cuddly governor will probably be cleared of wrong doing). We'll comfort ourselves with the two prominent Latinos nominated for cabinet posts: Representative Hilda L. Solis of California (Secretary of Labor) and Senator Ken Salazar of Colorado (Secretary of the Interior).