SANTA FE, N.M. — Democratic presidential hopeful Bill Richardson, who once joked he was the poorest member of President Clinton’s Cabinet, has seen his personal finances soar since leaving the federal government in 2001 as energy secretary.
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Richardson has enjoyed as much as a 10-fold increase in assets after working in the private sector for two years as a consultant, lecturer and corporate board member — including for energy industry companies — and then as governor of New Mexico since 2003, according to a review of federal records by The Associated Press.
Richardson’s assets are worth at least $3.5 million and up to $10.2 million, according to a financial disclosure filed in May with the Federal Election Commission.
He exited the Clinton administration in January 2001 with more modest holdings.
His assets then totaled between $350,002 and $750,000: a condominium in Santa Fe worth at least $250,001 and checking and money market accounts with a minimum value of $100,001, according to a financial disclosure filed with the U.S. Office of Government Ethics. Richardson wasn’t required to include in that report the value of a house in Washington, D.C., which was his residence at that time. The house was sold in late 2003.
As governor, Richardson receives a yearly salary of $110,000.
In May, Richardson reported holdings in residential and undeveloped real estate in New Mexico valued at $1.7 million to $6.5 million; and from $1.7 million to $3.7 million in mutual funds, bank accounts, IRAs and stock in an oil company that he’s since sold.
“Even a couple of years outside of government can enrich you far more than many years of working in government,” says Massie Ritsch, a spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics. “Especially if you’re an outgoing Cabinet secretary you can pretty quickly amass some income and wealth because you’re sought after as a corporate board member, a public speaker, just generally as a consultant to the interests that you used to oversee.”
Millionaires are plentiful among those pursuing the presidency.
Republican Mitt Romney, a former venture capitalist, is the richest with assets estimated at a minimum of $190 million. Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton and former President Bill Clinton, who’s earned millions in speaking fees since leaving the White House, have financial holdings between $10 million and $50 million. Democrat John Edwards made a fortune as a trial lawyer and has assets of about $30 million, including investments through a hedge fund that he worked for as a consultant. Edwards earned nearly a half-million dollars for his part-time consulting services.
Richardson served on the boards of 10 corporations after leaving the Energy Department, including three oil and natural gas companies, a solar energy systems manufacturer and a private equity company that invested in the power and electric utility industries.
“Because of his extensive knowledge and experience the governor was recruited by a number of firms and invited to join several boards,” Pahl Shipley, a spokesman for Richardson’s campaign, said in a statement. “At all times, his service was honorable and appropriate, and his compensation was determined based on his responsibilities to the organizations he served.”
Richardson resigned from the corporate boards after winning the Democratic nomination for governor in 2002.
Kissinger McLarty Associates
Richardson also worked in 2001 and 2002 for the well-connected firm of Kissinger McLarty Associates — formed by Henry Kissinger, secretary of state in the Nixon administration, and Thomas “Mack” McLarty, who was President Clinton’s chief of staff. The firm advises U.S. and multinational businesses. In addition, Richardson accepted paid speaking engagements, taught government at Harvard University and lectured at a college in New Mexico.
Paul Hogan, director of investigative projects for the Center for Public Integrity, says Richardson is an example of the “revolving door” of public officials who enter the private sector and profit from their years of government service.
Federal law prohibits former lawmakers and senior executive branch officials from directly lobbying former colleagues for a year after leaving government service. However, there’s no federal restriction on former agency administrators joining corporate boards in an industry they used to oversee or working as consultants to those business interests.
“While some of the regulations have been slightly tightened up over the years, the ability of public servants to cash in one way or another on what they’ve done in public life, I think, is almost totally unrestrained,” says Hogan.
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