Thursday, May 11, 2006

HUD Secretary Jackson Was Not Drunk Last Night...

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson – the one who said that only the best residents should be allowed to return to New Orleans public housing - publicly declared that he won't give government contracts to people based on their political views. 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."

So when Secretary Jackson was confronted with the fact that this is textbook corruption, the excuses started flowing. At first, it the reply was that the Secretary's story was just anecdotal. Then it became something along the lines of the Secretary is not directly involved in awarding contracts, so it doesn't matter. Now, finally we have a press release that says, it's ok ma, I'm only lying.
"I deeply regret the anecdotal remarks I made at a recent Texas small business forum and would like to reassure the public that all HUD contracts are awarded solely on a stringent merit-based process. During my tenure, no contract has ever been awarded, rejected, or rescinded due to the personal or political beliefs of the recipient."
It reminds me of the way Bertrand Russell sketches the logic of George Berkeley's argument for idealism, "I was not drunk last night. I only had two glasses; besides, it is well known that I am a teetotaller."

Frank Lautenberg has called for Jackson's resignation while Henry Waxman and Barney Frank in the House have called for investigations into HUD contracting decisions during Jackson's tenure. These are exactly the sorts of investigations that make the GOP tremble at the thought of a Democratically controlled House or Senate.