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Feds probe claim of a payoff to hide Richardson affair

Former Gov. Bill Richardson (Photo by Heath Haussamen)

Richardson’s political allies allegedly gave $250,000 to keep a woman alleging an extramarital affair with the former governor quiet, the Wall Street Journal is reporting

A federal grand jury is investigating an accusation that former Gov. Bill Richardson had supporters pay off a woman during his 2008 presidential campaign to keep quiet about their alleged extramarital affair, the Wall Street Journal is reporting.

Richardson’s political allies allegedly “gave $250,000 to placate a woman who was considering suing the governor in 2007, exposing their alleged extramarital affair, according to people familiar with the federal probe,” the Journal is reporting.

The Journal quoted the sources as saying the woman, who isn’t named in the article, “was a state employee at the time that she allegedly became romantically involved with Mr. Richardson around 2004.”

Richardson didn’t return calls and e-mails from the Journal seeking comment, and his office “declined to provide the names of his lawyers,” the article states.

The Albuquerque Journal first reported on the federal investigation two weeks ago, but the Wall Street Journal is the first to report the details.

Several close associates of Richardson have been granted immunity in exchange for their testimony, the Wall Street Journal reported. The newspaper didn’t name any of those associates, but NMPolitics.net has confirmed that Anthony Correra, a Richardson friend during his tenure as governor who has been in the news because of another scandal under investigation, was in Albuquerque in early November when the grand jury was meeting there to hear testimony in the case related to the alleged extramarital affair.

The Journal reported that the allegation about the payment to hide the affair came from “a former member of Mr. Richardson’s inner circle,” but it didn’t name that person.

From the newspaper:

“Federal investigators are piecing together a paper trail of checks and international wire transfers surrounding the alleged payment to the woman, some people familiar with the matter said. The grand jury is also examining other alleged financial irregularities, as well as whether Mr. Richardson used his clout as governor to push through a controversial road project that benefited a major political contributor, the people said.”

Similarities to case against John Edwards

The investigation bears some striking resemblances to the case against John Edwards, who also ran unsuccessfully for president in 2008. Edwards faces federal felony charges based on allegations that he used more than $1 million in donations to hide an extramarital affair.


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Edwards has pleaded not guilty. His trial is set to begin in late January.

In the Richardson case, according to the Journal, prosecutors are trying to build an argument that the alleged payment was “a de facto campaign contribution to Mr. Richardson, intended to further his bid for higher office.” The payment might have violated federal campaign finance reporting requirements and caps on political donations.

From the Journal:

“Campaign-finance lawyers say such cases are difficult to prove because it’s perfectly legal for people to give financial gifts. A conviction would hinge on proving that the largesse was actually an undisclosed campaign contribution, given for the explicit purpose of helping a politician win an election, said Richard Briffault, a law professor at Columbia University who specializes in campaign finance.”

The Journal quoted Jennifer Poersch, the senior finance adviser to Richardson’s presidential campaign, as saying she was “not aware of any wrongdoing or any inappropriate fund raising” and hadn’t been summoned to appear before the grand jury.

This is at least the fourth grand jury that has investigated Richardson or people close to him since 2008. Two ended without indictments. A third, the probe related to state investments, is ongoing.

You need a subscription to read the full article about the newest grand jury on the Journal’s website, but the New Mexico GOP posted the full article online here. You can also read an abbreviated version on the New York Post’s website here.

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9 comments so far. Scroll down to submit your own comment.

  1. This is a snarky report no one can trust.  There has never been a credible report of political fraud or any wrongdoing by anyone in the Richardson Administration.  This is a Republican plot from the get-go.  How much money has been spent looking into this?  All the time while people are starving in the streets and Americans are suffering everywhere.  Lies, all lies.  No one can prove any of this and they need to stop looking into it.  And if they don’t turn over everything they have to all bloggers then there’s also a cover-up–lawbreaking.  It’s lawbreaking I tell you, if they don’t turn over all their evidence to the public right now.  Stop it.

  2. Ms. Wedum:
    A police officer to the governor is not a good comparison.  The police officer has a scheduled time to work and to be in a proper positioning to do the job.  The governor is visible at all times and for all actions as he/she represents the people of New Mexico.  If he gets the affidavits and they are truthful then our justice system will declare he is innocent to the legal allegation.  This does not mean the actions demonstrate bad judgment or an attitude of I do not care what others think.
     
    qofdisks:  Does paying for a mistress after the fact not engage a person in prostitution?  An illegal activity in New Mexico.

  3. The payoff is the problem, not necessarily the affair, except to Richardson and his wife.  If this is true, it suggests that other payoffs could have taken place in pay-to-play shenanigans during his administration.  Yes, he’s smart enough to avoided getting into trouble over all the allegations, but time will tell and birds in danger of going to jail will sing.

  4. Actually, Edwards may do just that.  

  5. JP, it is more about the difference between a person’s private life and their public behavior. For example,I don’t believe that a police officer’s personal stuggle with alcoholism is any of my business as long as he or she performs the job properly.  And I believe that Governor Martinez is a good wife and mother, etc.  But what she does with my tax dollars is definitely my business.  Whether Richardson, or Martinez,  has been involved in “pay to play” schemeis definitely my business.  Their personal lives are not.  Edwards, on the other hand, allegedly improperly used donations to his campaign, which is a government-regulated fund.  (Which brings up a point–what if he got the donors of a total of a million dollars or more to sign affidavits stating that they retroactively allow him to use the funds to pay off his mistress??)

  6. If somebody wants to pay another man’s mistress, they are free to do so.  

  7. Ms. wedum59
    If Richardson can not honor his oath commitment to his wife why do you think he would honor his oath commitment to the state of New Mexico’s citizens.
    On another point I might agree with your statement regarding Martinez etc, but that is not the subject of this commentary.


  8. If, as the article itself claims, the contributors directly provided the funds, that is the money was NOT contributed to Richardson’s campaign account and THEN sent to the alleged woman (affairee?), then I don’t think the charge will stick.  It is not illegal for a man to ask his pals to bail him out of a jam.  It is not illegal (or even uncommon, unfortunately) for a man to commit adultery either.
     
    I am more concerned about misappropriation of public funds, as in the “sweetheart deals” that Governor Martinez made with Janetta Hicks when Martinez ran the DA office in Las Cruces and Hicks (now a DA herself) worked for her.  That wasn’t illegal then, it is now.

  9. Very Interesting, but Bill is very smart and has lots of friends in high places, he also knows very well how to cover tracks.  I find it amusing he is in Nigeria at an “environmental” conference.  Perhaps he is talking them into a cap and trade deal or joining Kyoto?  He is a master negotiator you know, and I’m sure is trying to save the planet by being in such a wonderful place.

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