Bill Richardson

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Bill Richardson
Bill richardson.jpg
Governor of New Mexico
Former officeholder
In office
2003 – 2011
Predecessor Gary Johnson (R)
Bachelor'sTufts University (1970)
Master'sTufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (1971)
Place of birthPasadena, California

William Blaine "Bill" Richardson III (born November 15, 1947) is a former Governor of New Mexico and was a candidate for the 2008 Democratic Party nomination for President of the United States. He was involved in several diplomatic efforts as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and afterwards. He emphasized foreign policy issues during his Presidential run. He has previously served as a U.S. Representative, Ambassador to the United Nations, and as the U.S. Secretary of Energy.[1] He was chairman of the 2004 Democratic National Convention as well as Chairman of the Democratic Governors Association in 2005 and 2006, overseeing the Democrats' re-capturing of a majority of the country's governorships. Richardson has been recognized for negotiating the release of hostages, American servicemen, and political prisoners in North Korea, Iraq, and Cuba.


Richardson was born at the Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, California to María Luisa López-Collada Márquez (born in Mexico City in 1914[2]) and William Blaine Richardson Jr. (1891–1972), a Nicaragua-born Citibank executive[2] who lived and worked in Mexico City for decades. It was his mother who largely took care of him during his youth. He has a younger sister, Vesta. Just before Richardson was born, his mother was sent to California, where her husband's sister lived, to give birth because, as Richardson explained, "My father had a complex about not having been born in the United States."[3] Three of his four grandparents were Mexican citizens, and he identifies himself as Hispanic.[3] Richardson, a U.S. citizen by birthright, was raised during his childhood in Mexico City. At age 13, Richardson's parents sent him to Massachusetts to attend a Boston-area preparatory school, Middlesex School in Concord, where he played baseball as a pitcher. He entered Tufts University in 1966 where he continued to play baseball.

Richardson's original biographies stated that he had been drafted by the Kansas City Athletics and Los Angeles Dodgers to play professional baseball, but a 2005 Albuquerque Journal investigation revealed that he never was on any official draft. Richardson acknowledged the error which he claimed was unintentional, saying that he had been scouted by several teams and told that he "would or could" be drafted, but was mistaken in saying that he was actually drafted.[4]

In 1967 he pitched in the amateur Cape Cod Baseball League for the Cotuit Kettleers in Cotuit, Massachusetts. A Kettleers program included the words "Drafted by K.C." The information which according to the investigation was generally provided by the players or their college coaches. Richardson said:

"When I saw that program in 1967, I was convinced I was drafted...And it stayed with me all these years."[5]

After college, Richardson worked for Republican Congressman F. Bradford Morse from Massachusetts. He was later a staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Richardson worked on congressional relations for the Henry Kissinger State Department during the Nixon Administration. In 1978, he moved to Santa Fe and ran for Congress in 1980 as a Democrat, losing narrowly to longtime 1st District congressman and future United States Secretary of the Interior Manuel Lujan (R). Two years later, Richardson was elected to New Mexico's newly created third district, taking in most of the northern part of the state.


Richardson earned a Bachelor's degree at Tufts in 1970, majoring in French and political science and was a brother and president of Delta Tau Delta. He went on to earn a master's degree in international affairs from Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in 1971. While still in high school, he met his future wife, Barbara Flavin. They married in 1972 and have no children.

Political career

Governor of New Mexico (2003-2011)

Richardson was elected governor of New Mexico in November 2002, having defeated the Republican candidate, John Sanchez, 56–39 percent. He succeeded a two-term Republican governor, Gary E. Johnson. He took office in January 2003 as the only Hispanic Governor in the United States, other than then-Governor Sila María Calderón of Puerto Rico. In his first year, Richardson proposed "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. In early 2005, Richardson made New Mexico the first state in the nation to provide $400,000 in life insurance coverage for New Mexico National Guardsmen who serve on active duty. At least thirty-five states followed suit.

Working with the legislature, he formed Governor Richardson's Investment Partnership (GRIP) in 2003. The partnership was used to fund large-scale public infrastructure projects throughout New Mexico, including, through the use of highway funds, a brand new commuter rail line (the Railrunner) between Belen, Albuquerque, and Bernalillo. He supported LGBT rights in his career as governor, adding sexual orientation and gender identity to New Mexico's list of civil rights categories. During the summer of 2003, he met with a delegation from North Korea at their request to discuss concerns over that country's use of nuclear energy. At the request of the White House, he also flew to North Korea in 2005, and met with another North Korean delegation in 2006. On December 7, 2006, Richardson was named as the "Special Envoy for Hemispheric Affairs" for the Secretary General of the Organization of American States with the mandate to "promote dialogue on issues of importance to the region, such as immigration and free trade."[6]

He was named Chairman of the Democratic Governors Association and announced a desire to increase the role of Democratic governors in deciding the future of their party.

In 2003, Richardson backed and signed legislation creating a permit system for New Mexicans to carry concealed handguns. He applied for and received a concealed weapons permit, though by his own admission he seldom carries a gun.[7]

As discussed frequently on CNN, Richardson supported the New Mexico policy of giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.

In 2006, Forbes credited Richardson's reforms in naming Albuquerque, New Mexico the best city in the U.S. for business and careers. The Cato Institute, meanwhile, consistently rated Richardson as one of the most fiscally responsible Democratic governors in the nation.

In December 2005, Richardson announced the intention of New Mexico to partner with billionaire Richard Branson to bring space tourism to the proposed Spaceport America located near Las Cruces, New Mexico.

In March 2006, Richardson vetoed legislation that would have banned the use of eminent domain to transfer property to private developers, as allowed by the Supreme Court's 2005 decision in Kelo v. City of New London.[8] He promised to work with the legislature to draft new legislation addressing the issue in the 2007 legislative session.

On September 7, 2006, Richardson flew to Sudan to meet Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir and successfully negotiated the release of imprisoned journalist Paul Salopek. Salopek had been charged by the Sudanese with espionage on August 26, 2006, while on a National Geographic assignment.

Richardson won his second term as Governor of New Mexico on November 7, 2006, 68–32 percent against former New Mexico Republican Party Chairman John Dendahl. Richardson received the highest percentage of votes in any gubernatorial election in the state's history.[9]

In December 2006, Richardson announced that he would support a ban on cockfighting in New Mexico.[10] On March 12, 2007, Richardson signed into law a bill that would ban cockfighting in New Mexico, leaving Puerto Rico as the only part of the United States where cockfighting remained legal.[11]

In January 2007, at the request of the Save Darfur Coalition, he brokered a 60-day cease fire between al-Bashir and leaders of several rebel factions in Darfur, the western Sudanese region. The cease-fire never became effective, however, with allegations of breaches on all sides.[12]

Richardson signed a bill into law that made New Mexico the 12th state to legalize marijuana for medical reasons. When asked if this would hurt him in a Presidential election, he stated that it did not matter, as it was "the right thing to do."[13]

Richardson's term in office ended in 2011 and he was term-limited from a third term as governor. He was succeeded by Republican Susana Martinez.<[14]

Sued for Inspection of Public Records Act violation

The Albuquerque Journal sued Richardson on June 3, 2010 for allegedly violating his legal obligations under the Inspection of Public Records Act.

Richardson denied any wrongdoing, but he did hire private, outside counsel.[15]

Veteran investigative reporter Colleen Heild requested to inspect documents identifying the political appointees Richardson announced he had laid off in the face of a budget crisis.[16]

Richardson argued cutting these political positions saved taxpayers $8.2 million, but he did not disclose the identity of those he fired.[15]

Los Luceros and Robert Redford

The Albuquerque Journal reported on October 13, 2010 that Gov. Richardson appropriated $1.75 million in stimulus funds for renovations to Los Luceros, a state-owned ranch. Los Luceros is headquarters for a film institute run in collaboration with Robert Redford.

At this point the state government was running at least a $250 million deficit. Sen. John Arthur Smith (D-Deming) opposed the move.

Redford directed “The Milagro Beanfield War” in New Mexico and teamed up with the state in 2009 to create ”Sundance in New Mexico." Sundance was espoused as an "initiative in which the Department of Cultural Affairs and the New Mexico Film Office work with Redford’s people to create and expand training programs in film, arts, and the environment, specifically for New Mexico’s Native American and Hispanic filmmakers."

The $1.75 million renovation included expanding sleeping quarters and a kitchen, constructing a multipurpose room and a bathhouse and redesigning outdoor space.

The month prior to this, Richardson faced criticism when he announced spending $2.8 million for a wildhorse refuge.[17]

Deficit higher than expected

For a year, New Mexico’s budget deficit had been estimated at $260 million. However, Richardson's financial expert raised the estimate to $452 million, a 74 percent increase. This meant the state legislature and then-incoming Gov. Susana Martinez had a more daunting task to balance the fiscal year budget, which started July 2011 and ended in June of 2012.[18]

U.S. Secretary of Energy (1998-2001)

The Senate confirmed Richardson to be Clinton's Secretary of Energy on July 31, 1998. His tenure at the Department of Energy was marred by the Wen Ho Lee nuclear espionage scandal. Richardson was also criticized by the Senate for his handling of the espionage inquiry by not testifying in front of Congress sooner. Richardson justified his response by saying that he was waiting to uncover more information before speaking to Congress.[19]

Richardson created the Director for Native American Affairs position in the Department in 1998, and in January 2000 oversaw the largest return of federal lands, 84,000 acres (340 km²) to an Indian Tribe (the Northern Ute Tribe of Utah) in more than 100 years.[20] Richardson also directed the overhaul of the Department's consultation policy with Native American tribes and established the Tribal Energy Program.

With the end of the Clinton administration in January 2001, Richardson took on a number of different positions. He was an adjunct professor at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and a lecturer at the Armand Hammer United World College of the American West.[21] In 2000, Bill Richardson was awarded a United States Institute of Peace Senior Fellowship. He spent the next year researching and writing on the negotiations with North Korea and the energy dimensions of U.S. relations.

Richardson also joined Kissinger McLarty Associates, a "strategic advisory firm" headed by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former Clinton White House chief of staff Mack McLarty, as Senior Managing Director.[22] He also served on the corporate boards of several energy companies, including Valero Energy Corporation and Diamond Offshore Drilling. He withdrew from these boards after being nominated by the Democratic Party for governor of New Mexico, but retained considerable stock holdings in Valero and Diamond Offshore.[23] He would later sell these stocks during his campaign for President in 2007, saying he was "getting questions" about the propriety of these holdings, especially given his past as energy secretary, and that it had become a "distraction."[24]

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (1997)

In 1997, Clinton appointed Richardson as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. As ambassador, he represented the United States in UN proceedings regarding the Palestinian National Authority and the State of Israel,[25] the completion of negotiations that strengthened the role and mandate of the United Nations Environment Programme regarding ecologically sustainable development,[26] as well as other duties of an ambassador to the UN. Richardson served there until 1998, when he was appointed U.S. Secretary of Energy, a post that he held for the remainder of the Clinton administration. According to his autobiography, Richardson was asked by the White House in 1997 to interview Monica Lewinsky for a job on his staff at the UN. Richardson did so, and offered her a position, which she declined.[27]

U.S. Congressman (1983-1997)

Richardson spent a little more than 14 years in Congress. As a congressman, he kept his interest in foreign relations. He visited Nicaragua, Guatemala, Cuba, Peru, India, North Korea, Bangladesh, Nigeria, and Sudan to represent U.S. interests.

Richardson served as Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in the 98th Congress (1983–1985) and as Chairman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Native American Affairs in the 103rd Congress (1993–1994). While in the House, Richardson sponsored bills such as the Indian Tribal Justice Act, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act Amendments, the American Indian Trust Fund Management Reform Act, the American Indian Agricultural Resource Management Act, the Indian Dams Safety Act, the Tribal Self-Governance Act, the Indian Tribal Jurisdiction Bill (commonly known as the “Duro Fix”) and the Jicarilla Apache Tribe Water Rights Settlement Act.

In 1996, he traveled to Baghdad with Peter Bourne and engaged in lengthy one-on-one negotiations with Saddam Hussein to secure the release of two American aerospace workers who had been captured by the Iraqis after wandering over the Kuwaiti border. He became a member of the Democratic leadership, where he worked closely with Bill Clinton on several issues.


2008 presidential campaign

Richardson was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the 2008 presidential election but dropped out on January 10, 2008 after lackluster showings in the first primary and caucus contests. Despite his long history with the Clinton family, Richardson endorsed Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination on March 21, 2008.[28] Commentator and Clinton ally James Carville famously compared Richardson to Judas Iscariot for the move.[29] Richardson responded in a Washington Post article, feeling "compelled to defend [himself] against character assassination and baseless allegations."[30]


Richardson has authored two books:

  • Between Worlds: The Making of an American Life autobiography, published March 2007
  • Leading by Example: How We Can Inspire an Energy and Security Revolution released October 2007

See also

  • Brooke, James (December 14, 1996). "Traveling Troubleshooter Is Ready to Settle Down, at the U.N.: THE SECOND TERM: The New Lineup William Blaine Richardson."The New York Times, pp. 11.
  • Rankin, Adam (July 10, 2005). "Richardson Named As Likely Source of Wen Ho Lee Leak". Albuquerque Journal. Retrieved on 2007-03-01.

External links

Suggest a link
Official sites
Databases and topic pages
Media coverage
2006 New Mexico gubernatorial campaign

Portions of this article were taken from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.


  1. Richardson, William Blaine: Biographical Information] Library of Congress
  2. 2.0 2.1 Ancestry of Bill Richardson WARGS (William Addams Reitweisner Geneaological Services)
  3. 3.0 3.1 The Pro-Familia Candidate by Joel Achenbach, Washington Post, May 27, 2007
  4. Richardson backs off baseball claim Associated Press, Nov. 25, 2005
  5. Four decades later, Richardson acknowledges he wasn't drafted by pro baseball team - Associated Press - November 24, 2005 (via
  6. Press Releases
  7. Concord Monitor, "Richardson stands out as pro-gun Democrat," 2008
  8. "Governor vetoes eminent domain legislation" Santa Fe New Mexican, March 8, 2006
  9. "Council Members: Governor Bill Richardson" New Mexico State Investment Council.
  10. "Governor will support a ban on cockfighting" Santa Fe New Mexican, December 27, 2006
  11. "Cockfighting outlawed" KRQE News 13, March 12, 2007
  12. U.S. Governor Brokers Truce For Darfur The New York Times, January 11, 2007.
  13. "Richardson says supporting medical marijuana 'is right thing to do'"
  14. Constitutional and statutory provisions for number of consecutive terms of elected state officials (PDF) National Governors Association
  15. 15.0 15.1 "Albuquerque Journal versus Bill Richardson Update," By Jim Scarantino, New Mexico Watchdog, September 9, 2010
  16. "Albuquerque Journal Sues Gov. Bill Richardson For Withholding Public Records," by Jim Scarantino, New Mexico Watchdog, September 9, 2010
  17. "Bill Richardson and Robert Redford vs. Dr. No," New Mexico Watchdog, October 14, 2010
  18. "URGENT: NM budget deficit NOT $260 million — try $452 million!" New Mexico Watchdog, November 12, 2010
  19. Christopher McCaleb, Ian, "Richardson says FBI has determined drives did not leave Los Alamos", CNN, June 21, 2000
  20. CNN staffs and wire reports, "U.S. land transfer to Utah tribe would be largest in 100 years", "CNN," January 14, 2000
  21. Pickler, Nedra, "Richardson declares presidential campaign", The Denver Post, May 22, 2007
  22. Fundación Consejo España-EEUU Bio
  23. Worden, Nat, "Big Oil Ties Could Muck Up Richardson's Bid",, June 11, 2007
  24. Associated Press, "Bill Richardson Sells Stock in Valero Energy Corp. Amid Questions", Fox News, June 1, 2007
  25. Yearbook of the United Nations 1997
  26. "1997 — Nairobi Declaration redefines and strengthens UNEP's role and mandate". United Nations Environment Programme.
  27. Irvine, Reed and Cliff Kincaid. "Bill Richardson Caught In Clinton Undertow" (dead link). Media Monitor. August 21, 1998.
  28. "Richardson: 'I am very loyal to the Clintons' "
  29. First a Tense Talk With Clinton, Then Richardson Backs Obama - New York Times
  30. Loyalty to My Country by Bill Richardson, The Washington Post, Apr. 1, 2008
Political offices
Preceded by
Gary Johnson (R)
Governor of New Mexico
Succeeded by