SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson, who promotes renewable energy as a way to wean the nation off of fossil fuels, has sold his stock holdings in the country's largest independent refining company.
Richardson owned stock in Valero Energy Corp. worth between $100,001 and $250,000, and had stock options valued between $250,001 and $500,000, according to a financial disclosure report filed earlier this month with the Federal Election Commission.
Richardson said Thursday he sold the oil company stock because "it was just a distraction" in his campaign.
"Because I was getting questions, I just felt it was best to divest myself," Richardson said.
However, he lauded Valero, calling it a "very reputable company that does important work."
Richardson served on Valero's board of directors from 2001 until June 2002, when he resigned after winning the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in New Mexico. He served as energy secretary in the Clinton administration in 1998-2000.
Richardson began airing a new television ad in Iowa and New Hampshire Friday highlighting his environmental record. Richardson is spending about $100,000 in Iowa and about $40,000 in New Hampshire during the week to run the ad and another biographical commercial.
"We've made New Mexico the clean energy state," says Richardson in the television commercial. "As president, I'll make us the clean energy nation."
An announcer opens the ad by saying, "New Mexico: No other state has done as much to promote renewable energy and fight global warming."
Richardson has pushed several renewable energy and greenhouse gas measures during his tenure as governor. It's debatable whether New Mexico has done more than any other state.
For example, California last year became the first state to impose a mandatory statewide cap on greenhouse gas emissions. It also was the first to push for more stringent auto emission standards - something a dozen other states have followed and Richardson now wants New Mexico to adopt as well.
Richardson signed a law this year that requires that electric utilities get at least 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020, as the ad notes. However, more than 20 states have such requirements, and some are equal or greater than New Mexico's standard.
Two weeks ago, Richardson unveiled a national energy plan that called for increased production from renewable energy sources, more fuel efficient cars and steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The governor said at the time he saw no contradiction in his oil industry investments and his clean energy proposals.
Richardson also served as a director of other oil companies after leaving the Clinton administration: Houston-based Diamond Offshore Drilling and Denver-based Venoco Inc., which produces oil and gas in California, including offshore from Santa Barbara.
Valero, which is based in San Antonio, Texas, is the nation's largest independent refiner and has a network of retail gasoline stations.
The governor sold the stock last Friday and exercised his options and sold those shares, according to Pahl Shipley, a spokesman for Richardson's campaign. Valero's stock closed last week at $74.74 a share.
Valero paid its non-employee directors, like Richardson, $25,000 a year, plus granting them stock and options.