Feds probe claim of a payoff to hide Richardson affair
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.
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.