President-elect Barack Obama will turn to another tained retread from the administration of former President Bill Clinton today when he names New Mexico governor (and former Presidential nomination rival) Bill Richardson as his new Secretary of Commerce.
Richardson wanted to become Secretary of State but settled for the Commerce job after Obama offered the higher-profile position to another rival, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The New Mexico governor, and former member of Congress from that state, served as Clinton’s energy secretary and as United Nation’s ambassador. He also agreed to hire White House intern and Clinton paramour Monica Lewinsky when the President needed to get her out of the White House but may have lied about the sequence of events that led to that hiring.
Like other Obama appointments, Richardson has skeletons in his political closet. In 2004, he admitted that a 40-year claim that, as a young man, he was drafted by the Kansas City A’s was a lie.
Richardson ran for Congress against New Mexico Republican incumbent Manuel Lujan in 1980 and almost unseated the popular Congressman. In 1982, he ran for the newly-created open seat in New Mexico. Reports John J. Miller in National Review:
By 1982, New Mexico had its third House seat, and Richardson was the favorite to win. That year, however, he faced his first serious ethical questions. His campaign literature claimed he had spent "three years working as Hubert Humphrey’s top foreign affairs aide on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff." In reality, he had worked only two years for Humphrey, had served on a subcommittee rather than the full committee, and hadn’t even headed the subcommittee staff. Richardson was forced to admit that his boasts were "incorrect." He also appeared to lack the financial resources to obtain a $100,000 campaign loan he signed for, generating complaints from Common Cause and a federal probe. It turned out that his mother, still living in Mexico City, had helped him secure a certificate of deposit- calling unwelcome attention to his privileged upbringing. He won anyway.
President-elect Barack Obama is ready to name Bill Richardson as his choice for commerce secretary after passing over his vanquished Democratic rival for secretary of state.
Democratic officials say the two would appear at a news conference together in Chicago on Wednesday.
Richardson’s nomination as commerce secretary has been all-but-announced for several weeks.
One of the nation’s most prominent Hispanic politicians, he will become the latest former Democratic primary opponent to join Obama’s Cabinet. The incoming chief executive has chosen another adversary-turned-ally, Hillary Rodham Clinton, to be his secretary of state. Obama also chose former rival Joe Biden as his vice presidential running mate.
The president-elect has moved quickly to fill out his Cabinet, having named more than half of it in the month since he was elected the country’s 44th president.
An energy secretary and United Nations ambassador in President Bill Clinton’s administration, Richardson was a contender for the State Department job, but Obama offered him the post as commerce secretary after choosing the former first lady as his top diplomat.