Bill Richardson’s sudden exit from the prospective Obama Cabinet is causing some Democrats to question the transition team’s vetting process. Sources tell Politico that Richardson evaded the team’s questions about the “pay-to-play” investigation he cited as his reason for backing out. The investigation has been public since August. “Those guys were pressed for information,” the source said, “and they gave nothing.”
Richardson’s departure leaves Obama without his highest-ranking Hispanic secretary, but also removes a potential headache. Richardson said yesterday that he feared the investigation would lead to a tough confirmation hearing, and some believe Obama wanted to avoid the distraction of a second Blagojevich-esque office-peddling scandal. Transition officials say Richardson wasn’t pressured to resign, but neither was the timing terrible. “Better to rip the bandage off now,” says one Obama ally.