Sunday, January 04, 2009

Richardson Steps Down Because of a Scandal - What Else is New?

In the second scandal in recent weeks — where palms were allegedly greased to gain political favor — New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has announced he is withdrawing his nomination to be President-elect Barack Obama's Commerce Secretary because of a grand jury investigation into how one of his political donors won a lucrative state contract.

The first scandal in recent weeks was, of course, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich allegedly attempting to sell President-elect Obama's recently vacated Senate seat.

The federal grand jury is investigating how a California company, which contributed to Richardson's campaign, won a $1 million transportation contract.

Governor Richardson — who like Governor Blagojevich is not stepping down from his position as governor — has stated he is confident the investigation will reveal he acted properly in the matter. His rationale, as stated in this Washington Post article, is that the investigation could take a long time and he doesn't want to get in the way of important work that needs to be done.

President-elect Obama accepted the resignation with deep regret and cited Richardson's long history of service to the country, both at the state and the federal level.

The federal grand jury investigation in question was announced in mid-December and revolves around whether or not CDR Products was awarded a 1.4 million contract after making contributions to Richardson's political action committees. The contributions of $100,000 were made in 2004 by CDR (based in 90210, Beverly Hills, CA) shortly before they obtained the contract.

Reports indicate that this case is part of a larger one involving the FBI's investigation into "pay to play" practices involving governent bonds. In another part of this investigation, the mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, Larry Lanford, has been indicted for taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts and loans that led his city into bad investments and ultimately, bankruptcy. just reported that corruption has dominated the news in Alabama in recent history. In a telling statement, the article noted that corruption deserved top billing in 2006 and 2007, also. Alabama Governor Don Siegelman continues to try to overturn his 2006 conviction on bribery charges, and their Chancellor, Roy Johnson, plead guilty in a federal investigation of corruption in the state's two-year college system.

The sad thing is that politicians being charged and convicted of fraud are becoming too common. From a congressman allegedly getting caught with $100,000 in his freezer, to a senator allegedly accepting $250,000 in gifts from an oil company executive — I sometimes wonder if I am living in a foreign land, where we would expect this to be the status quo. Please note, there are many more examples of public figures getting caught with their hands in the cookie jar in recent history. Please note also that the incidents of alleged corruption involve leaders of different political affiliations.

As we are only days now from President-elect Obama's administration taking office, we face the worst financial crisis since the depression. Not only are we experiencing a financial crisis, but many believe our nation is severely divided; and to top it off, we are at war.

President-elect Obama has spoken out many times on the evils of special interests and lobbyists, who seem to be able to control our government's destiny. Even after Wall Street laughed all the way to the bank (for years) when the mortgage crisis was created — it seems we are being held hostage to bail them out or face even more severe financial consequences.

Change is what is needed and hopefully that is what is about to occur. On his transition website, President-elect Obama is encouraging open government and soliciting us all to write in with our own ideas. I think this a good thing and we all should do it. Our nation was founded in part because of taxation without representation and if you think about it, an argument might be made that this what we've been seeing in recent history.

During the election, I struggled a lot with how to cast my vote; my uncle (who is a huge Obama advocate) sent me a YouTube video about Obama set to John Lennon's song, Imagine. For those of us who still remember his music, Lennon had another song called Gimme Some Truth. What we need now is to imagine our leaders are there for us and to stop finding reasons to lose faith in them.

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