Obama's commerce pick Richardson bows out
AFP - 1 hour 36 minutes ago
WASHINGTON (AFP) - - Bill Richardson, president-elect Barack Obama's pick to be commerce secretary, said Sunday he was withdrawing his name owing to an investigation into a company doing business with his state of New Mexico.
In a joint statement, Obama said he accepted the New Mexico governor's withdrawal "with deep regret" and said he would move quickly to find a replacement as he prepares to take office on January 20.
Richardson said he had asked Obama to pull his name from the Senate confirmation process 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," he said in the statement, without going into details.
The Commerce Department is not in the front lines of US economic policy-making. But Richardson, the nation's most prominent Hispanic politician, is a heavy-hitter and he becomes the first big name to quit the putative Obama administration.
"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," Obama said.
"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."
A federal grand jury in Albuquerque is investigating how a California financial company that donated money to Richardson won lucrative contracts to advise New Mexico state authorities.
Richardson, insisting he had done nothing wrong, said he would continue as New Mexico governor "for now" as the investigation into the company called CDR Financial Products plays out.
"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.
"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."
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Bill Richardson, pictured in 2008, president-elect Barack Obama's pick to be commerce secretary, said Sunday he was withdrawing his name owing to an investigation into a company that had done business with his state of New Mexico.
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