Today, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Alphonso Jackson announced his resignation, effective April 18, marking the exit of one of Bush’s few remaining holdovers from Texas. CNN’s Ed Henry reports that Jackson is departing because he has “been struggling privately” with ethics allegations. Watch it:
The Washington Post reports that officials summoned Jackson to the White House last Monday, and “discussed his ability to continue to lead the agency.” Jackson faces ongoing probes “by a federal grand jury, the Justice Department, the FBI and the HUD inspector general.” At least five lawmakers have called on Jackson to resign, including Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA), Christopher Dodd (D-CT), and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Barney Frank (D-MA).
In May 2007, Jackson testified to Congress, “I don’t touch contracts.” In retrospect, that statement appears to have been at best a gross inaccuracy, and at worst, an outright lie. A look at Jackson’s tenure of incompetence and corruption:
Loyalty Over Merits: During a speech on April 28, 2006, Jackson recounted a conversation he had with a prospective contractor who had a “heck of a proposal.” This contractor, however, told Jackson, “I don’t like President Bush.” Jackson subsequently refused to award the man the contract. A former HUD assistant secretary confirmed that Jackson told agency employees to “consider presidential supporters when you are considering the selected candidates for discretionary contracts.”
Political Retaliation: In 2006, Jackson allegedly demanded that the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) “transfer a $2 million public property” at a “substantial discount” to Kenny Gamble, a developer, former soul-music songwriter, and friend of Jackson’s. When PHA director Carl Greene refused, Jackson and his aides called Philadelphia’s mayor and “followed up with ‘menacing’ threats about the property and other housing programs in at least a dozen letters and phone calls over an 11-month period.”
Contracts For Golfing Buddies: In October 2007, federal investigators looked into whether, after Hurricane Katrina, Jackson lined up an emergency “no-bid contract” at the HUD-controlled Housing Authority of New Orleans for “golfing buddy” and friend William Hairston. According to HUD, the emergency contract paid Hairston $392,000 over a year and a half; Hairston’s partner companies also received “direct contracts” with HUD. One of the companies which received a contract in New Orleans, Columbia Residential, had “significant financial ties to Jackson.” Jackson’s wife also had “ties to two companies that did business with the New Orleans authority.”
Awarding Corrupt Companies: Shirlington Limousine and Transportation Inc. is the firm that defense contractor Brent Wilkes used to “transport congressmen, CIA officials, and perhaps prostitutes to his Washington parties.” The firm’s president had a “lengthy history of illegal activity,” detailed in his 62-page rap-sheet, and his limo company “operates in what looks to be a deliberately murky way.” Despite all this, Jackson’s HUD awarded Shirlington a contract worth $519,823.
Lucrative Salaries For Cronies: Atlanta lawyer Michael Hollis, another Jackson friend, “appears to have been paid approximately $1 million for managing the troubled Virgin Islands Housing Authority,” despite having “no experience in running a public housing agency.” A “top Jackson aide” reportedly made it clear to officials within HUD that “Jackson wanted Hollis” for the job. Hollis received more than four times the salary of his predecessor.
The Corner comments that it’s “remarkable is that amid some sizable problems in the housing market, most Americans couldn’t name the Secretary of HUD.” But while Jackson was busy erecting giant photo homages to himself, the nation was spiraling into the worst housing crisis since the Great Depression. It’s therefore not surprising that the Bush administration hasn’t given Jackson a higher profile.