Bill Richardson Withdraws As Commerce Secretary Nominee

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NBC is reporting:

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, tapped in December by President-elect Barack Obama to serve as secretary of Commerce, has withdrawn his name for the position, citing a pending investigation into a company that has done business with his state.

“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 Sunday in a report by NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell. “But I have concluded that the ongoing investigation also would have forced an untenable delay in the confirmation process.”

I’m told that the Obama transition was unaware of this investigation when the President-elect nominated Richardson, who has been a popular Governor and who is arguably the nation’s most prominent Hispanic politician, to be his Commerce Secretary. Obama will be putting out a statement shortly.

UPDATE:

STATEMENT OF PRESIDENT ELECT BARACK OBAMA

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. Although we must move quickly to fill the void left by Governor Richardson’s decision, I look forward to his future service to our country and in my administration.

STATEMENT OF GOVERNOR BILL RICHARDSON

For nearly three decades, I have been honored to serve my state and our nation in Congress, at the U.N., as Secretary of Energy and as governor. So when the President-elect asked me to serve as Secretary of Commerce, I felt a duty to answer the call.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.

Let me say unequivocally that I and my Administration have acted properly in all matters and that this investigation will bear out that fact. But I have concluded that the ongoing investigation also would have forced an untenable delay in the confirmation process.Given the gravity of the economic situation the nation is facing, I could not in good conscience ask the President-elect and his Administration to delay for one day the important work that needs to be done.

So, for now, I will remain in the job I love, Governor of New Mexico, and will continue to work every day, with Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish, to make a positive difference in the lives of New Mexicans. I believe she will be a terrific governor in the future.I appreciate the confidence President-elect Obama has shown in me, and value our friendship and working partnership. I told him that I am eager to serve in the future in any way he deems useful. And like all Americans, I pray for his success and the success of our beloved country.

UPDATE2: More on the investigation from the AP, via the Albuquerque Journal:

WASHINGTON (AP) – New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has withdrawn his nomination to be President-elect Barack Obama’s commerce secretary amid a grand jury investigation.

Obama’s transition office said Sunday that Obama has accepted Richardson’s withdrawal.

A federal grand jury is investigating how a California company that contributed to Richardson’s political activities won a lucrative New Mexico state contract.

A person familiar with the proceedings has told The Associated Press that the grand jury is looking into possible “pay-to-play” dealings between CDR Financial Products and someone in a position to push the contract through with the state of New Mexico.

UPDATE3: The latest pool report:

Robert Gibbs came back during flight and said that he agreed with Hoyer that it was “very, very unlikely” that an economic stimulus package would be ready by Jan. 20.

“We don’t anticipate that Congress will have passed both Houses an Economic Recovery and Reinvestment plan by the time the inauguration takes places.”

Gibbs said that Monday’s meetings are designed to get legitimate bipartisan input and to convey a sense of urgency.

“Tomorrow begins anew that work but I think the added urgency that we’ve seen, statistics, we’ve seen Christmas sales, consumer confidence and obviously upcoming job numbers which underscore that a very serious situation has only gotten worse and isn’t likely to get better any time soon.”

Didn’t comment much on Richardson, only stuck to statement said that Obama learned of decision on Friday.

“The totality of our cabinet picks, its impressive and I think our vettors have done a good job.”

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