Obama supporter criticizes Richardson pick

December 3, 2008 7:17:24 PM PST
As expected, President-elect Barack Obama made it official Wednesday, naming New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson as his commerce secretary. But it is a choice that is drawing some criticism. One of the loudest voices protesting the nomination is coming from Silicon Valley.

Roger Hu is a Silicon Valley engineer, an early Obama campaign volunteer, and an Obama delegate at the Democratic Convention. He is not a fan, however, of Obama's pick of Richardson for commerce secretary.

"Richardson's nomination essentially would undermine everything that I worked for," said Hu.

Hu has written an online letter to Obama and his transition team objecting to the nomination. His negative opinion of Richardson dates back to 1998 and the federal government's prosecution of Wen Ho Lee under then Energy Secretary Richardson.

"Bill Richardson needs to be held accountable to what he did and I don't think at this point people have given much thought into how he handled himself," said Hu.

Wen Ho Lee was fired from his job as a nuclear scientist at Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico. In late 1999, the government arrested Lee and charged him with 59 counts related to passing top secrets to China and locked him in solitary confinement.

The government's case fell apart, Lee plead guilty to one felony count, and was released nine months later with an apology from the federal judge who freed him.

David Johnson, however, thinks Richardson is a brilliant nomination. Johnson is development director at the National Hispanic University in San Jose. He and other Latinos are proud of Richardson and say the Lee case should not overshadow a lifetime of public service.

"I think it was a mistake, but it's something that is not as big a mistake as the set of accomplishments that it should be weighed against," said Johnson.

Hu does not agree with some Latino activists who say his online petition will drive a wedge between Latino and Asian American groups. Hu says what happened to Lee involved racism and civil rights abuses that should offend everyone.

"Bill Richardson needs to go and make an acknowledgement about this case and needs to apologize, not only on behalf of the family, but to the entire community," said Hu.

Until he hears an apology, Hu says he will continue to support Obama, but oppose his nomination of Richardson.

For more on this story, read The Back Story.


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