Sources tell ABC News that officials on the Obama Transition Team feel that before he was formally offered the job of commerce secretary, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson was not forthcoming with them about the federal investigation that is looking into whether the governor steered a state contract towards a major financial contributor.
Once the investigation became more widely known through national media reports last month, sources tell ABC News, the Obama Transition Team realized the FBI would not be able to give Richardson a clean political bill of health before the new administration is ready to send his nomination up to the Senate for confirmation.
The Richardson camp says the governor was forthcoming, with sources close to the governor noting that there had been reports about the controversy in local media such as the Albuquerque Journal as far back as August 2008. The governor discussed the investigation with the Obama team, they say, and believes that he and his administration have done nothing wrong.
From 2004 to 2005, CDR Financial Products, a Beverly Hills, Calif.-based company founded and run by David Rubin, received nearly $1.5 million through the New Mexico Finance Authority for advising the state in a complex highway funding project pushed by Richardson. In roughly that same time period, CDR and Rubin gave approximately $100,000 to political organizations run by Richardson, including one that paid for his and his staff's expenses at the 2004 Democratic convention. Neither the grand jury nor the FBI has interviewed Richardson.
President-elect Obama did not ask Richardson to withdraw his name from consideration, sources from both camps say, but the fact that the confirmation seemed untenable in the short term was apparent to everyone involved.
There were some discussions about whether the confirmation process could be delayed a few months until the investigation concluded, sources say, but it became clear that wouldn't happen any time soon, and no one wanted to be seen as pressuring law enforcement officials to wrap up their investigation.
The governor spoke with the president-elect several times over the weekend, their last conversation being Saturday, when Richardson told Obama he was withdrawing his name from consideration