Policy: Environment & Energy

Bill Richardson in flap over Ex-Im's $150 million-plus in funding for Spanish green firm

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Photo - Bill Richardson was nominated in 2009 to be Secretary of Commerce but withdrew following reports of state agencies awarding contracts to contributors to the former New Mexico governor's 2008 presidential effort. (AP Photo)
Bill Richardson was nominated in 2009 to be Secretary of Commerce but withdrew following reports of state agencies awarding contracts to contributors to the former New Mexico governor's 2008 presidential effort. (AP Photo)
News,Watchdog,Watchdog Blog,Export-Import Bank,Energy and Environment,Spain

Questions are being raised about the apparent role of former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson in decisions by the U.S. Export-Import Bank to award two loans totalling more than $150 million to a Spanish green energy firm.

The Ex-Im first made a $78.6 million direct loan in December 2012 to Abengoa, the Seville, Spain-based firm that specializes in green technologies, then approved a second loan worth $73.6 million Agengoa's Palmatir S.A., wind farm in Cuchilla de Peralta, Uruguay.

Ex-Im president Fred Hochberg said the loans will support "approximately 510 American jobs."

The role of former New Mexico governor, who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, was spotlighted yesterday in a report by the Washington Free Beacon's C.J. Ciaramella.

According to Ciaramella, Richardson is a member of Abengoa's board of directors and joined an Ex-Im policy advisory panel around the same time the two loans were announced.

An Ex-Im spokesman told the WFB that Richardson had no role in the Abengoa loan decisions, but the timing and circumstances of his appointment to the bank's committee are murky.

"It is unclear, though, if Richardson joined the Ex-Im Bank's advisory board before or after the decision to extend the loan was made. The Ex-Im Bank did not immediately respond to a follow-up inquiry," WFB's Ciaramella reported. "Critics of the Ex-Im Bank say the connection between Richardson, Abengoa, and the bank is another instance of 'corporate welfare' at the bank."

Barney Keller, a spokesman for the Club for Growth, which has repeatedly called for Congress to abolish the bank, told WFB that Ex-Im is "is nothing more than a massive, taxpayer-backed fund for corporate welfare, so a story like this comes at no surprise to us or to anyone who has pushed for the bank to be shut down."

Richardson was nominated as Secretary of Commerce by President Obama in 2009. The nomination was scuttled, however, in the wake of media reports that federal authorities were investigating a contract issued by the New Mexico Finance Authority to a Beverly Hills, CA., firm whose president had contributed substantial sums to Richardson's presidential campaign.

For more from WFB, go here.

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