A criminal trial in New York has shed new light on a closed federal investigation of former Gov. Bill Richardson, with testimony about how a financial advisory firm got a state contract worth nearly $1 million for 13 hours of work.
A former official with CDR Financial Products, Douglas Goldberg, testified as a prosecution witness in April in a federal criminal antitrust case involving bid rigging in the municipal bond industry.
The antitrust case had no ties to New Mexico, but defense attorneys attempted to discredit Goldberg’s testimony by examining his role in CDR getting a 2004 contract with the New Mexico Finance Authority.
Goldberg testified that he delivered a $25,000 political contribution to the governor at a fundraiser and that Richardson then said, “Tell the big guy I’m going to hire you guys.”
Goldberg said he understood “big guy” to mean his direct boss, Stewart Wolmark, who Goldberg testified had given him the check.
Richardson’s attorney, Peter Schoenburg, said Friday, “Gov. Richardson denies any wrongdoing. The witness is not credible, the allegations are old and discredited, and the testimony is simply false.”
According to election records, the head of CDR, David Rubin, contributed $25,000 to Moving America Forward, a Richardson PAC formed to register new voters for the 2004 election.
Rubin’s company, Chambers, Dunhill, Rubin and Co., which does business as CDR Financial Products, contributed $75,000 to another Richardson political organization in the same time frame.
Rubin, Goldberg and other CDR executives have pleaded guilty to a massive municipal bond bid rigging scheme.
Goldberg was testifying against three executives from a General Electric affiliate, who were found guilty of criminal antitrust violations, cheating cities and towns out of money used for public works projects.
The New Mexico contract, which was not involved in the New York case, involved a portion of Richardson’s $1.6 billion GRIP bond project that included highway improvements and construction of the Rail Runner commuter train.
Goldberg testified that CDR did about 13 hours of bond work for the state and was paid nearly $1 million.
In 2008 and 2009, the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Mexico investigated the bond work contracts and political contributions by CDR to Richardson PACs.
That investigation ended in August 2009 with the expiration of the statute of limitations.
Goldberg was cooperating with federal authorities in the New Mexico investigation before it was closed, according to non-law enforcement sources with connections to the case.
Richardson, who denied any wrongdoing, withdrew his name from nomination as a President Barack Obama’s secretary of commerce in early 2009 as details of the investigation emerged.
Then-U.S. Attorney Greg Fouratt sent a letter to defense attorneys in the case saying the investigation revealed “that pressure from the Governor’s Office resulted in the corruption of the procurement process so that CDR” would be awarded financial work from the New Mexico Finance Authority.
Among other things, bid scoring sheets were changed in a way that allowed CDR to be hired to do advisory work for the New Mexico Finance Authority.
The investigation revealed “that CDR and its officers made substantial contributions to Governor Richardson’s political organizations during the time that the company sought financial work with the NMFA (Finance Authority),” according to Fouratt’s letter.
The letter also said the decision not to bring an indictment “should not be interpreted as an exoneration.”
Goldberg’s testimony in the New York case came to light in a Rolling Stone magazine article by Matt Taibbi about corruption in the municipal bond industry.
The Journal obtained a partial transcript of Goldberg’s testimony.
Goldberg testified he was aware CDR gave another $75,000 to Richardson in addition to the $25,000 check he delivered.
In 2004, Si Se Puede! Boston 2004 Inc. was formed to pay the bills for Richardson and his staff to attend the Democratic National Convention in Boston.
The committee raised $191,000, and $130,000 of that came from financial companies involved in the GRIP bonds.
CDR Financial Products contributed $75,000, according to financial reports.
Later in the New York trial, Goldberg was asked by a defense attorney:
“Do you remember telling the government on March 24, 2009, that you estimated that CDR performed about, at most, 13 hours of work for the New Mexico Finance Authority on the GIC swap transactions?”
Goldberg responded: “I don’t remember the exact number, but that sounds close.”
Later, Goldberg was asked: “You know that bribing a politician is a crime?”
Goldberg responded: “Yes.”
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal