Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso Jackson publicly admitted that he canceled a government contract with a business because the CEO was critical of President Bush. From the Dallas Business Journal:
“He had made every effort to get a contract with HUD for 10 years,” Jackson said of the prospective contractor. “He made a heck of a proposal and was on the (General Services Administration) list, so we selected him. He came to see me and thank me for selecting him. Then he said something … he said, ‘I have a problem with your president.’
“I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘I don’t like President Bush.’ I thought to myself, ‘Brother, you have a disconnect — the president is elected, I was selected. You wouldn’t be getting the contract unless I was sitting here. If you have a problem with the president, don’t tell the secretary.’
“He didn’t get the contract,” Jackson continued. “Why should I reward someone who doesn’t like the president, so they can use funds to try to campaign against the president? Logic says they don’t get the contract. That’s the way I believe.”
Jackson’s conduct appears to be in violation of federal law. From the Federal Acquisition Regulations, 48 CFR 3.101–1:
Government business shall be conducted in a manner above reproach and, except as authorized by statute or regulation, with complete impartiality and with preferential treatment for none. Transactions relating to the expenditure of public funds require the highest degree of public trust and an impeccable standard of conduct.
Jackson has admitted that this particular contract was not awarded with “impartiality.” The business that would have been awarded the contract was excluded because of the contractor’s political views.
The Competition in Contracting Act (41 U.S.C. 253(b)(1)) details the six circumstances in which a particular contractor can be excluded. Needless to say, political views are not on the list.
It is also highly unusual for a cabinet secretary to be involved in the awarding or cancellation of a particular contract. More on this story soon.