Grand jury probes Richardson donor's state contract
Posted 12/15/2008 09:55:00 AM
This article has been updated.The U.S. Attorney’s Office has convened a federal grand jury to investigate dealings between the state and a California company that was paid almost $1.5 million for work related to a contract it won around the same time it donated $100,000 to political action committees formed by Gov. Bill Richardson.
The grand jury probe comes after months of investigation by the FBI, whose agents, according to Bloomberg.com, have asked “current and former officials” from the New Mexico Finance Authority if any staffers in the governor’s office influenced the hiring of CDR Financial in 2004. The grand jury investigation was first reported on today by Bloomberg.
“They’re looking at everything related to CDR,” William Sisneros, the finance agency’s chief executive officer, was quoted by Bloomberg as saying about the FBI investigation. “They’re just trying to evaluate all the relationships to see what CDR was doing for the money.”
The company won a contract related to the massive transportation-funding plan Richardson dubbed GRIP -- or Governor Richardson’s Investment Partnership -- in 2004. According to Bloomberg, “CDR made $1.48 million advising the authority on interest-rate swaps and restructuring escrow funds for $1.6 billion of transportation bonds issued by the agency.”
Meanwhile, in 2003 and 2004, CDR Financial gave $75,000 to Richardson’s political action committee Si Se Puede!, and the company’s head, David Rubin, gave $25,000 to Moving America Forward, another Richardson PAC.
Richardson formed Si Se Puede! to pay travel expenses for him and staffers who were attending the 2004 Democratic National Convention, which he chaired. Moving America Forward was a voter-registration group.
No information released publicly has directly linked Richardson to the probe, but Richardson could face questions about the situation when he goes through a Senate confirmation hearing in late January or February. President-elect Barack Obama has nominated Richardson to be his commerce secretary.
Staffers from Obama’s press office did not immediately respond to e-mail requests for comment on the Bloomberg article. Neither did two Richardson staffers. In the past, the Richardson administration hasn’t commented on the probe beyond saying it’s cooperating with federal investigators.
CDR told Bloomberg it did nothing wrong in New Mexico.
“To suggest that there’s a pay for play element is just inaccurate,” CDR’s Allan Ripp was quoted by Bloomberg as saying. “There was no involvement by the governor. CDR knows for certain that they were selected on the basis of their track record.”
CDR has a history of scandal in other states that is detailed in the Bloomberg article, which you can read by clicking here.
On member of the NMFA Board, Craig Reeves, was quoted by Bloomberg as saying he was asked by federal agents about whether the donations had any role in CDR’s hiring. He said no one from the governor’s office discussed hiring CDR with him.
CDR was hired following the issuance of a Dec. 30, 2003 RFP. Six companies responded to the request, and CRD ranked second-highest. A committee recommended splitting the request into two parts and hired CDR for one. Rick Homans, who at the time was Richardson’s economic development secretary, chaired that committee.
Reached by e-mail today, Homans, who is now Richardson’s taxation and revenue secretary, declined to comment on the investigation.
Update, 11:35 p.m.
Richardson, asked today by the New Mexico Independent’s Trip Jennings about the federal investigation, refused to comment.