Gov. Bill Richardson Probe 'Was Killed in Washington' won't be criminally charged in a yearlong federal investigation

SANTA FE, N.M. -- New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and former high-ranking members of his administration won't be criminally charged in a yearlong federal investigation into pay-to-play allegations involving one of the Democratic governor's large political donors, someone familiar with the case said.

The decision not to pursue indictments was made by top Justice Department officials, according to a person familiar with the investigation, who asked not to be identified because federal officials had not disclosed results of the probe.

"It's over. There's nothing. It was killed in Washington," the person told The Associated Press.

A federal grand jury began an investigation in 2008 into a possible pay-to-play scheme in which lucrative work on state bond deals went to a Richardson donor. The federal probe derailed Richardson's appointment as commerce secretary in President Barack Obama's administration.

Richardson withdrew his nomination in January, saying the investigation would have delayed his confirmation although he said expected to be cleared.

Richardson and members of his staff traveled to Cuba this week for a trade mission. Richardson spokesman Gilbert Gallegos didn't immediately respond to e-mail messages seeking confirmation that no charges were expected from the federal investigation.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Albuquerque said he had no information about the Justice Department's decision and couldn't comment.

Federal investigators reviewed whether political contributions influenced the selection of California-based CDRs made up mostly of executive branch department administrators and gubernatorial appointees.

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