Alphonso Gets EvictedGo To Original
This morning, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson announced he is stepping down effective April 18. While the White House has so far refused to give a reason for his departure, Jackson faces ongoing probes "by a federal grand jury, the Justice Department, the FBI and the HUD inspector general." Earlier this month, Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Christopher Dodd (D-CT) sent a letter to President Bush "urging him to request Mr. Jackson’s resignation, arguing that accusations of wrongdoing had made him ineffective." Their calls joined similar onesparade of these loyalists -- including Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, and Dan Bartlett -- left the White House last year. Like so many of Bush’s Texas friends, Jackson’s legacy will be one of incompetence, corruption, and political cronyism. While he was busy awarding lucrative no-bid contracts to his golfing buddies and erecting giant photo homages to himself, the nation was spiraling into the worst housing crisis since the Great Depression.
A PHILADELPHIA STORY: One of the most recent scandals to come to light focuses on Jackson’s willingness to retaliate against employees unwilling to participate in his cronyism. 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." For example, Orlando Cabrera, then-assistant secretary at HUD, suggested in an e-mail that the agency "make his [Green’s] life less happy." Kim Kendrick, an assistant secretary who oversaw accessible housing, proposed that they "[t]ake away all of his Federal dollars." According to Green, Jackson’s politically motivated plan to remove federal funds from Philadelphia "could raise rents for most of its 84,000 low-income tenants and force the layoffs of 250 people." "This kind of stuff undermines public confidence in our officials," Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) said to Jackson during a recent congressional hearing.
LOYAL BUSHIES ONLY: 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. In 2006, Jackson told a group of business leaders in Texas that he refuses to award contracts to people who disagree with the President. During this controversial 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 said that he thought to himself, "Brother, you have a disconnect -- the president is elected, I was selected." Jackson subsequently refused to award the man the contract, despite the merits of the proposal. A former HUD assistant secretary also confirmed that Jackson told agency employees to "consider presidential supporters when you are considering the selected candidates for discretionary contracts." He also said that he "did not want contracts" awarded to certain "political groups," which included "Democrats." Jackson’s actions appeared to violate the Federal Aquisition Reguations (48 CFR 3.101-1), which states, "Government business shall be conducted in a manner above reproach and...with complete impartiality and with preferential treatment for none."
CRONYISM OVER COMPETENCE: In Oct. 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 companiessignificant financial ties to Jackson." Jackson’s wife also had "ties to two companies that did business with the New Orleans authority." 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. Curiously, Hollis received more than four times the salary of his predecessor. from Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), and Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) in 2006. Jackson was one of Bush’s few remaining holdovers from Texas, after a also received "direct contracts" with HUD. One of the companies which received a contract in New Orleans, Columbia Residential, had "