Bill Richardson has asked President-elect Barack Obama to withdraw his nomination to be Commerce secretary because of an ongoing federal corruption investigation.
In statements released by the presidential transition team, Mr. Richardson, governor of New Mexico, said he did not do anything wrong but the investigation by federal prosecutors “would have forced an untenable delay in the confirmation process.”
Mr. Obama said he accepted the decision.
“Governor Richardson is an outstanding public servant and would have brought to the job of Commerce Secretary and our economic team great insights accumulated through an extraordinary career in federal and state office,” the president-elect said.
Mr. Richardson is under investigation by federal prosecutors looking into whether a firm that has done business with the state was granted improper favors by Mr. Richardson. The firm reportedly donated heavily to Mr. Richardson’s political action committee.
“I and my Administration have acted properly in all matters and that this investigation will bear out that fact,” the governor said. “But I have concluded that the ongoing investigation also would have forced an untenable delay in the confirmation process.”
It’s the first major crack in what had been a successful Cabinet rollout for Mr. Obama. His picks had won praise from Republicans and Democrats, though some questions have been raised about his Attorney General nominee, Eric Holder.
Mr. Richardson said he will remain as governor. He had earlier served as Energy secretary and ambassador to the U.N. in President Clinton’s administration, and sought the Democratic presidential nomination last year.
Hispanic groups had pushed for him to be named to head the State Department, but that position went to another former Obama rival, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.