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EXCLUSIVE: HUD Secretary Admitted Professional ‘Bias’ Against Bush Critics, Ignored Warnings From Lawyers

By Judd Legum  

"EXCLUSIVE: HUD Secretary Admitted Professional ‘Bias’ Against Bush Critics, Ignored Warnings From Lawyers"

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Alphonso Jackson An investigation by the Department of Housing and Urban Development Inspector General reportedly revealed that HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson instructed staff to award HUD contracts to President Bush’s political allies and withhold them from his political opponents. The HUD IG, however, has refused to make the full 340-page report public.

ThinkProgress — which has previously published the executive summary — has obtained access to the entire report. Testimony from Jackson, his top deputies, and HUD legal counsel, none of which has previously been reported, show that the agency set aside the rules, assisted its political allies, and made life difficult for its political opponents. Here are some key excerpts:

1. Against the advice of HUD legal counsel, Jackson regularly met with potential HUD contractors. From page 110 of the report:

Regarding JACKSON’s involvement with contracting matters, [former Acting HUD General Counsel Kathleen] Koch advised JACKSON would meet with individuals who were either contractors or who wanted to obtain contracts at HUD. Koch stated, “We warned him against it.” Koch and her staff used to review the daily schedule for the previous HUD Secretary, Mel Martinez, to advise if there were potential problems, but that practice “just petered out” after JACKSON became Secretary. When potential HUD contractors wanted to meet with Martinez, they would be kept away from Martinez…

On page 156 of the report, Jackson himself admits regularly meeting with potential contractors:

JACKSON acknowledged that he does meet with individuals seeking contracts with HUD, stating “I’ve met with a lot of them…They come over to me…I say to them sure, we’d love to do business with you…”

2. Jackson explicitly acknowledged that he would not assist people who are critical of President Bush. From page 153:

[W]ell my position is if you’re going to castigate me, castigate our President, I’m not going to sit here and lie to you, I’m not going out of the way to call Norm Mineta and say see Officer Medici and make sure that he does X-Y-Z. I’m not going to do it. I will not do it, and I’m not going to say that I will…So I’m not going to go out of my way to help somebody who’s castigating the President…Now, if that’s my bias, I have it.

3. Jackson’s deputies attempted to circumvent competition rules to secure a contract for a Republican PR firm. From page 216:

Cathy MacFarlane, Assistant Secretary, Public Affairs, acknowledged requesting a contract for Spaeth Communications. Spaeth had done previous public relations work for MacFarlane, Baylor and JACKSON, as well as various Republican-affiliated organizations, cited in the contract application documentation. The contract was initially to be awarded under the “Unusual and Compelling Urgency Exemption to the Competition in Contracting Act.”

The request for the extraordinary procedures was blocked by Associate Counsel John Opitz. He elaborated on the Spaeth contract on page 218:

There is a “facial” concern in Spaeth’s references to her firm’s prior politically related work. In retrospect, it does raise questions. Was the award based on her ability to do work or her prior connections, including her connection to JACKSON? I do not know the answer to that.

The HUD IG report also documents that Jackson obstructed a contract for Abt Associates because they supported Democrats, according to Jackson’s Chief of Staff. Nevertheless, throughout the report Jackson repeatedly denies that he has ever improperly influenced any HUD contract.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, Rep. Henry Waxman and Rep. John Olver have all called on Secretary Jackson to resign.

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