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Si Se Puede! The Richardson Probe

POSTED: 12:35 PM ET, 01/ 5/2009 by Derek Kravitz

In this Dec. 3 file photo, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson listens during a news conference in Chicago. Richardson says he is withdrawing his nomination to be President-elect Barack Obama's commerce secretary amid a grand jury investigation. Obama said in a statement Sundayyesterday that he accepted Richardson's withdrawal "with deep regret" but that the governor was putting the nation first to avoid any delay in filling the Cabinet post. (AP Photo / Charles Dharapak)

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson says a federal probe into campaign contributions he received from a financial services firm that later got a state contract will find no wrongdoing.

But the former Commerce Secretary nominee apparently thought it was enough of an issue to hold up his confirmation and President-elect Barack Obama's seemingly smooth transition process.

At issue is Richardson's alleged connection to CDR Financial Products LLC, a California firm which was awarded a $1.4 million state transportation contract with the state in 2004, part of a massive $1.6 billion program designed to pay for road improvements and the state's commuter train.

CDR's owner, David Rubin, made two contributions totaling $85,000 to political organizations close to Richardson. And those contributions came around the time CDR was hired on by the state. (Rubin has also given money to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Women's Pro-Israel National PAC, incoming Interior Secretary Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) and Obama's presidential campaign.)

The first $10,000 contribution, to the Democratic Governor's Association which was headed by Richardson, came on in March 2004, six days after CDR became the state's adviser on certain types of complex financing for the transportation program.

The second contribution for $75,000 came in June 2004, four days before the state's Finance Authority recommended that CDR get a sole-source, no-bid contract to manage the state's escrow account.

In that instance, Rubin gave money to one of Richardson's political-action committees, Si Se Puede!, which was created in 2004 to pay for the governor and his staff to attend the Democratic National Convention in Boston, where Richardson was convention chairman.

Sources familiar with the investigation told The Post that CDR initially did not make the list of the top three bidders.

And of the $191,000 the Si Se Puede! committee raised, $130,000 of it came from financial companies involved with the governor's transportation program (the other firms include UBS Financial Services, RBC Dain Rauscher and George K. Baum and Co.).

Another wrinkle: The Albuquerque Journal and state workers can't seem to find the actual contract awarded to CDR.

The probe ($) was first reported in August by the Journal, which found that the FBI had interviewed several officials in connection with the investigation, including William Fulginiti, executive director of the New Mexico Municipal League and member of the New Mexico Finance Authority board, and David Harris, the former executive director of the Finance Authority.

At the time, Harris's attorney, Paul Kennedy, said "we're absolutely convinced that David did nothing wrong" and Fulginiti told the Journal that the bidding process was competitive and the contract award was "fairly routine."

By Derek Kravitz |  January 5, 2009; 12:35 PM ET
Previous: Richardson Probe, Md. Police Spying, Madoff Investigators Chased in Vain | Next: How Much Does Madoff Still Have?


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