A federal grand jury is investigating whether a financial firm improperly won more than $1.4 million in work for the state of New Mexico shortly after making contributions to political action committees of Gov. Bill Richardson (D).
The probe focuses on whether the governor's office urged a state agency to hire CDR Financial Products. The probe is in a highly active stage at a time when President-elect Barack Obama has chosen Richardson as his nominee for secretary of commerce, according to two sources familiar with the investigation.
The inquiry is part of a long-running nationwide investigation into "pay-to-play" practices in local government bond markets. In other cities, federal investigators are questioning whether financial firms have lavished politicians with money and gifts in exchange for fee-paying work advising municipal and local governments on investments. Authorities indicted the mayor of Birmingham, Ala., this month on charges of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts and loans from a firm that led the city into toxic investments and massive bankruptcy.
A 101-count federal indictment unsealed today charges Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford, Montgomery investment banker William Blount, Blount Parrish and Co. and longtime Langford friend Al LaPierre with a series of crimes in connection with Jefferson County bond transactions and swap agreements.
The indictment charges the three men and Blount Parrish and Co. with conspiracy, bribery, fraud, money laundering, and filing false tax returns in connection with a long-running bribery scheme.