Bill Richardson, New Mexico Governor, is under investigation in the pay-to-play municipal bond market scandal that threatens to severely deepen the current international financial crisis.
Dec. 15 (Bloomberg) -- A federal grand jury is investigating how a company that advised Jefferson County, Alabama, on bond deals that threaten to cause the biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, did similar work in New Mexico after making contributions to Governor Bill Richardson’s political action committees.Democrats have not yet officially "taken power" in Washington and around the country, but they have already slipped back into their comfort zone. The rest of us call it corruption.
The grand jury in Albuquerque is looking into Beverly Hills, California-based CDR Financial Products Inc., which received almost $1.5 million in fees from the New Mexico Finance Authority in 2004 after donating $100,000 to Richardson’s efforts to register Hispanic and American Indian voters and pay for expenses at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, people familiar with the matter said.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation asked current and former officials from the state agency if any staff members in the governor’s office influenced CDR’s hiring, said the people, who declined to be identified because the proceedings are secret. Richardson [D], who is President-elect Barack Obama’s designate for Commerce Secretary, has a staff of at least 30 people.
“They’re looking at everything related to CDR,” William Sisneros, the finance agency’s chief executive officer, said of the FBI probe. “They’re just trying to evaluate all the relationships to see what CDR was doing for the money.”
The investigation reflects another front in nationwide efforts by U.S. prosecutors to investigate so-called pay-to-play in the municipal bond market. The term refers to banks and advisers who make political contributions or personal gifts to public officials in return for fee-paying financing assignments.
On Dec. 1, Birmingham, Alabama’s mayor, Larry Langford [D], was charged by federal prosecutors with soliciting $235,000 in loans, expensive clothes and jewelry from Montgomery, Alabama-based bond underwriter Blount Parrish & Co. Langford, the former president of the Jefferson County Commission, included the firm on bond and derivative deals that netted it about $7.1 million. CDR, which wasn’t named in that indictment, advised Jefferson County on the derivatives.
The New Mexico probe comes two years after the FBI searched CDR’s offices as part of a nationwide investigation into whether banks and advisers conspired to overcharge local governments on financing deals. That probe by the New York office of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division is ongoing, and CDR says it is cooperating.
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