ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - The U.S. Department of Justice has decided not to seek criminalindictments against Gov. Bill Richardson or former high-rankingmembers of his administration in what has been referred to as the"pay-to-play" deal.
For the last year federal investigators have been looking intowhether a California investment firm, CDR Financial Products, gotstate contracts in exchange for political contributions.
During a visit to Albuquerque in June 2009 U.S. Attorney GeneralEric Holder refused to say anything about the corruption case.
"Well I don't comment on either the existence or non-existenceof investigations and when we have something that we are publiclyready to say we will say it," he said.
But, News 13 has learned, top Justice Department officials inWashington, after reviewing the evidence for several months,recently decided not to seek indictments.
The case centers on the financing of road construction in NewMexico. In 2004, the California firm CDR was paid $1.5 million tohelp with the complicated financing of road projects. Around thetime CDR received the contracts, CDR executives donated roughly$100,000 to political action committees set up by GovernorRichardson. Much of that money was used to cover expenses for himand his staff at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.The two CDR contracts attracted the FBI's attention.
The FBI began its probe 14 months ago. Agents wanted to know ifthe contributions were linked to the state contracts, in otherwords, was CDR required to pay to play?
As part of the investigation, a federal grand jury inAlbuquerque gathered documents and heard testimony from a varietyof witnesses.
Published news reports say the grand jury focused on theGovernor, his former Chief of Staff, David Contarino and on DavidHarris, the former Executive Director of the New Mexico FinanceAuthority.
Richardson has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and in Januaryhe also defended Contarino: "Dave Contarino is an outstandingpublic servant ... he was my chief of staff ...utmost integrity,talent."
Although this investigation now appears to be over, it has takena toll.
In December, then-President-elect Barack Obama nominatedRichardson to be commerce secretary.
"Bill has seen from almost every angle what makes the economywork," Obama said.
However, a month later, the corruption investigation forcedRichardson to withdraw his nomination.
"Yesterday I was hurting over this decision. I lost a cabinetappointment," Richardson said during a news conference.
There will be no formal announcement from the Justice Departmentabout the conclusion of this investigation but the government'sdecision could be publicly known as early as Thursday.
Although the CDR investigation is dead, the Richardsonadministration is not in the clear as far as the feds areconcerned. There are still several ongoing corruptioninvestigations in the state, including a federal probe into stateinvestment practices.
Richardson is currently in Cuba on a trade mission and will notbe back in the state until Friday.
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