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Pay-to-Play Probe Snares Richardson

Barack Obama hasn't even been inaugurated and already the Democrats ethical problems are piling up.

While Rod Blagojevich and Roland Burris are marching to Washington to claim Obama's old Senate seat, Obama has to start interviewing for another Secretary of Commerce.

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has unexpectedly decided NOT to accept Obama's appointment as Secretary of Commerce because of his role in an unfinished grand jury "pay-to-play" investigation.

"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 in a statement. "But I have concluded that the ongoing investigation also would have forced an untenable delay in the confirmation process."

Federal investigators began examining Richardson's relationship with the California-based CDR Financial Products, Inc. last August as a part of a nationwide municipal bond scandal investigation. Richardson, however, was not the original target of the investigation that began in Jefferson County, Alabama where Bloomberg News said may CDR's illegal actions may have caused "the biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history."

In 2003 and 2004, CDR's President David Rubin donated $100,000 to Richardson's political action committees, Si Se Puede and Moving America Forward.  In 2004, Rubin received $1.4 million worth of contracts from the State of New Mexico to provide consulting services about interest-rate swaps for one of Richardson's $1.6 billion transportation bond projects.

Both parties insist no-wrongdoing took place.

Richardson's unexpected withdrawal re-opens the jockeying for the coveted slot of Secretary of Commerce---one of the plum positions disgraced Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was caught on wiretaps saying he desired in exchange for an appointment to Obama's vacated Senate seat.


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