Posted March 31, 2008 - At a time when the nation is struggling with its most serious mortgage crisis in recent memory, the Bush administration’s housing honcho has handed in his keys amid allegations that he rewarded fat real estate contracts to political buddies.
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Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso R. Jackson, one of two remaining African Americans in President Bush’s Cabinet, has been under investigation by the Justice Department and the housing department’s Inspector General for some time, federal officials have acknowledged.
Many of those who worked under Jackson have been interviewed by federal investigators. Jackson, one of the few HUD chiefs to have ascended to the position with serious housing experience under his belt, was formerly the president and CEO of the Dallas Housing Authority. In a letter he sent to Bush on Monday, he promised to "fully assist in the orderly transition of the leadership at HUD." It was a report in the May 2006 Dallas Business Journal about Jackson’s speech before a minority real estate group that triggered the probe, according to its sister publication, The Business Journal Serving Greater Milwaukee.
Jackson told the group that he had canceled a contract because a contractor did not like Bush. "Why should I reward someone who doesn't like the president, so they can use the funds to try to campaign against the president?" Jackson said. "Logic says they don't get the contract. That's the way I believe." That’s how government works, Jackson said, according to the Dallas publication. “Once you get the contract, they just keep giving you tax dollars. …The most amazing thing I’ve ever seen is the amount of contracts we give out every day. One contract can make you wealthy.” Jackson later apologized, saying he was only jiving, but the genie was already out of the bottle. The HUD Inspector General caught wind of the issue and launched his investigation.
The Dallas Business Journal, through a Freedom of Information Act request, got a copy of the Inspector General’s report and reported that top aides to Jackson had testified that their boss said they should consider an applicant’s political party when dishing out discretionary contracts. The report found that there was no solid evidence that “information regarding political affiliation was routinely or generally received, maintained or applied to the contracting process; however, there were some limited instances where political affiliation may have been a factor in contract issues involving Jackson," the Journal reported.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is the only remaining Black in Bush's Cabinet. Rice, formerly the National Security Adviser, replaced Secretary Colin Powell, who resigned in 2004. Secretary of Education Rod Paige stepped down in 2005. Although not an official member of the Bush Cabinet, Claude Allen, the president's principal domestic policy adviser, resigned in 2006 following revelations that he had been nabbed stealing from D.C.-area Target and Hecht's department stores.