Is Bill Richardson Keeping Campaign Cash From Accused Ponzi Schemer?

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson did not give back donations to his presidential campaign from accused fraudster Hassan Nemazee, and Richardson may have also kept $5,000 given by Nemazee to his 2006 gubernatorial campaign.

The donations to Richardson have come under increased scrutiny since Forbes reported last week that Nemazee’s investment firm was gunning for a state contract at the same time Nemazee gave the money to the ’06 gubernatorial campaign. Carret Asset Management, partially owned by Nemazee, won the contract in 2007 and has made nearly $2 million in fees.There is no record of the governor’s presidential campaign committee giving back $4,600 it received from Nemazee and his wife in October 2008, according to Doug Weber of the Center for Responsive Politics. The committee closed shop in June, and it’s not clear whether Richardson would have the money to give back after the committee was terminated, Weber says.

After Nemazee, a big donor and bundler for many national Democrats, was charged with operating a Ponzi scheme in August, many politicians who got his money immediately announced they would give it to charity.

While Richardson is not running for reelection in 2010, his gubernatorial campaign is still filing fundraising reports, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. His office did not respond to requests for comment about the $5,000 from Nemazee.

The donations to the presidential campaign may have come at a dinner to help pay off Richardson’s campaign debts that, according to Nemazee’s business partner, he hosted at his Upper East Side apartment.