Politico tries to answer the question by finding out what Kerry’s people learned when they vetted him for VP in 2004. Answer: inconclusive. Jim Johnson, a D.C. lawyer who did the vetting, will only say they he didn’t find anything that would have disqualified Richardson. Richardson’s campaign manager claims Johnson told him they found nothing having to do with sexual harassment; a reporter in New Mexico likewise claims to have gotten a call in July 2004 in which Johnson “sang Richardson’s praises.” He quoted Johnson at the time as saying he’d “looked very comprehensively at all of the information available to us” and discovered no impropriety.

Others are a bit more coy:

Three other people — either senior Kerry aides or Democrats involved in the vice presidential search process — said in interviews that Richardson’s past was not subject to any examination aimed at determining whether his personal conduct with women was a potential political problem.

These Democrats, who declined to be quoted by name discussing a sensitive personal matter, said that Richardson withdrew from consideration by Kerry before undergoing a final round of vetting. The final round would have required delivering financial documents and other information to Johnson and his team for an intensive examination of a candidate’s fitness for high office…

Another Kerry aide … said it was inappropriate to use the vetting as a credential. “We never gave anyone a clean bill of health, or not.”

An old article in the Free New Mexican quotes at length the person who finally pushed this story into the media: the lieutenant governor of New Mexico, Diane Denish. He only grabbed at her like an annoying little brother might do, she insisted — except that she also spoke to his deputy chief of staff about the problem and admitted she tried to avoid not being near him, as well as her struggle not to throw a fit in public about it.

You know, like a little sister might do.

But here’s the real meat, courtesy of an unlikely source. Or is it? Richardson’s a fairly centrist Democrat; it may just be HuffPo’s way of purging the heretics from the party ranks.

I will frame this as a “question” for Bill Richardson.

Have you behaved inappropriately or not in public settings with female members of your government administration, jokingly or not? Have you gestured to female public servants and political appointees — who work as colleagues with you — and made lewd gestures, specifically pointing to them and then pointing at your crotch with a room full of media and other politicos there in the room?

I ask this not to demean or undermine Richardson.

I ask it because I was not in the room when this particular incident occurred but many others were — and rumors have long swept around Santa Fe that Bill Richardson makes a constant festive joke out of demeaning women. These incidents don’t have to do with the comments by Lt. Governor Diane Denish that Richardson is a “touchy” and “feely” Governor. They have to do with questions about a far more crude kind of gesture that demeans professional women.

These concerns I have heard may be completely contrived, but after speaking with several senior level New Mexico officials, my sense is that it needs to at a minimum be addressed by the Governor who wants to be President. Some suggest that Richardson “can’t stop himself” or “doesn’t even realize what he is doing” or thinks that “this sort of thing is part of New Mexico’s political scene.”

That post was written on January 21, right around the Democratic candidates were announcing the formation of their exploratory committees.

Ace has more about Richardson’s little brotherish behavior towards Denish and provides our exit question: if Mickey Kaus knows something about Richardson doing this to women, why doesn’t he or someone else report it? Why the parade of hints?

Update: Ace is working a source who says he’s heard from eyewitnesses that Richardson’s hands are busy indeed.