Bill Richardson

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Bill Richardson
Bill Richardson
Bill rich color.jpg
Governor of New Mexico
From: January 1, 2003 – December 31, 2011
Predecessor Gary Johnson
Successor Susana Martinez
Former U.S. Representative from New Mexico's 3rd Congressional District
From: January 3, 1983 – February 13, 1997
Predecessor none (newly created district)
Successor William T. Redmond
Former United States Ambassador to the United Nations
From: February 13, 1997 – August 18, 1998
President Bill Clinton
Predecessor Madeleine Albright
Successor Richard Holbrooke
9th United States Secretary of Energy
From: August 18, 1998 – January 20, 2001
President Bill Clinton
Predecessor Federico Peña
Successor Spencer Abraham
Party Democrat
Spouse(s) Barbara Richardson
Religion Roman Catholic

William Blaine "Bill" Richardson (November 15, 1947 – September 1, 2023) served as the Democratic Governor of the State of New Mexico from 2003 to 2011. He previously has served as a Congressman, United States Ambassadors to the United Nations, and U.S. Secretary of Energy.[1] He was nominated as Secretary of Commerce in the Obama Administration but was forced to withdraw when he became the target of a corruption investigation regarding Pay to play (forcing businessmen to make campaign contributions before they could get a contract from the state government); in 2009, federal prosecutors dropped the pending investigation against Richardson although several close aides and appointees are now serving time upon being convicted.

Although Richardson has no historic connection to the Latino population of the U.S. (his mother was from Mexico), he moved to New Mexico and became governor to capitalize on his Hispanic connections and looks. His political career is independent of the Latino community.

Early life

Bill Richardson was born in Pasadena, California to an American father of Yankee descent and a Mexican mother. Both came from rich families. He as a U.S. citizen by birthright, was raised in Mexico City, where he lived and worked for decades. Three of his four grandparents were Mexican citizens and his sister Vesta is a pediatrician in Mexico. Following his father's footsteps he studied in Massachusetts, and earned a degree at Tufts University (1970) (Boston).

In 1967, he played in the amateur Cape Cod Baseball League.

In 1972, he married Barbara Flavin.

Release of hostages

In 1995 Richardson accompanied by Peter Bourne traveled to Baghdad for a meeting with Saddam Hussein to negotiate the release of two Americans at the request of the Clinton White House. Richardson and Bourne subsequently collaborated on a number of such efforts in Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Kenya, and North Korea.[2]

Richardson has led several missions to win the release of hostages. In his autobiography and interviews, he jokes that he was chosen for these missions because "bad guys like me."


Wen Ho Lee was a Taiwanese-American scientist who worked for the University of California at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Lee was publicly named by United States Department of Energy officials, including Secretary Bill Richardson, as a suspect in the theft of classified nuclear-related documents from Los Alamos.[3] Richardson was criticized by the Senate for his handling of the espionage inquiry by not testifying in front of Congress sooner. Richardson was less than truthful in his response by saying that he was waiting to uncover more information before speaking to Congress.[4]

On December 10, 1999, Lee was arrested, indicted on 59 counts, and jailed in solitary confinement without bail for 278 days until September 13, 2000, when he accepted a plea bargain from the federal government. Lee was released on time served after the government's case against him could not be proven.[3] He was ultimately charged with only one count of mishandling sensitive documents that did not require pre-trial solitary confinement, while the other 58 counts were dropped. Just before releasing Lee, Judge Parker told him: "It is only the top decision makers in the Executive Branch ... who have caused embarrassment by the way this case began and was handled. They did not embarrass me alone. They have embarrassed our entire nation and each of us who is a citizen of it. I might say that I am also sad and troubled because I do not know the real reasons why the Executive Branch has done all of this.'[5]

While Judge Parker was uncertain as to the "real reasons" behind the Executive Branch's actions, Wen Ho Lee's supporters have asserted that the Clinton administration targeted Lee because of his race.[6] They contend that the government engaged in illegal racial profiling when it investigated, prosecuted, and terminated the employment of Wen Ho Lee.[7]

Richardson alleges Saddam has WMD

On February 11, 1998, Bill Richardson told Margaret Warner of the PBS News Hour regarding Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction,

"We think this man is a threat to the international community, and he threatens a lot of the neighbors in his region and future generations there with anthrax and VX....Are we going to stand back and allow Saddam Hussein to continue developing Weapons of Mass Destruction?"[8]


As governor, Richardson continued activities in foreign policy. During the summer of 2003, he met with a delegation from North Korea to discuss its nuclear program.

Tax policies

Richardson was elected governor of New Mexico in November 2002. In his first year, Richardson proposed and won passage of Reagan-style "tax cuts to promote growth and investment" and passed a broad personal income tax cut and won a statewide special election to transfer money from the state's Permanent Fund to meet current expenses and projects.[9]

Accounting scandal

The Albuquerque Journal reported on June 12, 2005, that a New Mexico State Auditor concluded the Governor used "Enron type accounting" after his administration "circumvented the Legislature and proper accounting procedures when it opened the office in 2004 because it used money intended for the Taxation and Revenue Department to pay for the governor's Albuquerque digs." The Governor had opened an office in Albuquerque five minutes from the airport to meet with potential out of state donors for his 2008 Presidential campaign without inconveniencing them with the two hour round trip to Sante Fe.

Campaign finance scandal

In April 2007 it was revealed Richardson had been the beneficiary of tainted cash donations to his campaign by several federally indicted high-level New Mexico conspirators who had bilked the State out of about $4 million for construction of a new courthouse in Abluquerque.[10]

2008 Presidential Campaign

Bill Richardson withdrew from the 2008 Presidential race on January 9, 2008.[11] He withdrew after he trailed in fourth place in the Iowa caucus with 2% of the votes, and then trailed in fourth in the New Hampshire primaries where he won 5%. This showed that he could not compete with his rivals’ star power, despite his credentials.

Richardson received a "Pants on Fire" award from PolitiFact for this false statement to an Iowa crowd on Labor Day 2007.

Iowa, for good reason, for constitutional reasons, for reasons related to the Lord, should be the first caucus and primary.

Bill Richardson has said he supports Obama. NM Gov. Bill Richardson endorsing Obama

Richardson and Hispanics

After leaving office a coalition of New Mexico Hispanic groups demanded Richardson "immediately stop representing and speaking for or on behalf of the Hispano/Latino community in New Mexico, throughout the Southwest on national affairs or international affairs pertaining to any Hispano/Latino issue or subject today and in perpetuity." The Hispano Round Table of New Mexico, representing more than 50 groups, unanimously passed a resolution saying the Democratic governor was "ruthless, dishonest, deceptive, dishonorable, contemptuous and abusive" toward the Hispanic community. The resolution said New Mexico Hispanics remain severely underrepresented in education and employment, have the highest numbers of working poor and poverty, have low rates of home ownership and health insurance, and face issues over immigration and land grants.

The groups' spokesperson said Richardson "did not represent our views, our values or our voices, and now we don't want him to try to be the national representative for the Hispanic community." The spokesperson said Richardson "focused his two terms as governor on himself and his political ambitions."[12]

See also