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HUD secretary denies contract because contractor "doesn't like the president"?

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/H/HUD_SECRETARY_TXOL-?SITE=TXELP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT Inspector general looks into HUD secretary s comments By
    Message 1 of 1 , May 12, 2006
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      http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/H/HUD_SECRETARY_TXOL-?SITE=TXELP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT

      Inspector general looks into HUD secretary's comments

      By STEPHEN OHLEMACHER
      Associated Press Writer

      WASHINGTON (AP) -- An inspector general is
      investigating Housing and Urban Development Secretary
      Alphonso Jackson's comments to a Dallas business group
      that he rejected an advertising contract because the
      contractor had criticized President Bush.

      "We have received a number of complaints from the
      public as well as from members of Congress," Michael
      Zerega, spokesman for HUD's inspector general, said
      Friday. "We are reviewing this matter and will look to
      the facts and any applicable law or requirements."

      Jackson issued an apology Wednesday, saying he made up
      the story. He won Bush's support Friday.

      "Alphonso Jackson has admitted that what he said
      earlier was improper, that it was a mistake and the
      president accepts that and still supports a man with
      whom he's had a long and close relationship," White
      House press secretary Tony Snow said.

      Meanwhile, the Congressional Research Service issued a
      memorandum saying it would violate federal law - and
      perhaps the Constitution - to deny a contract to
      someone because of his or her political affiliation.
      The memo was released Friday by Sen. Frank Lautenberg,
      D-N.J., who had requested the opinion.

      "Contracts may not be awarded on the basis of personal
      or political favoritism, and all potential contractors
      should be treated with complete impartiality and with
      preferential treatment for none," said the memo,
      signed by John Luckey, a lawyer with the nonpartisan
      research service.

      Jackson told a Dallas business group April 28 about a
      minority contractor who finally had landed an
      advertising contract with HUD after trying for 10
      years, according to an article in the Dallas Business
      Journal.

      Jackson said that when the man approached him to thank
      him for the contract, the contractor said he didn't
      like Bush.

      "He didn't get the contract," Jackson told the group,
      according to the newspaper. "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."

      HUD spokesman Jerry Brown said Jackson would cooperate
      with the investigation.

      Zerega said there was no timetable for the
      investigation. The inspector general, Kenneth Donohue,
      who does not report to Jackson, has several options if
      he finds wrongdoing. He could simply issue a report,
      or he could work with the U.S. attorney's office to
      seek a criminal indictment.

      Several Democrats in Congress had called for the
      inquiry.

      "Secretary Jackson was bragging not only about
      violating contracting law, but also about violating
      someone's Constitutional rights," Lautenberg said in a
      statement. "This is a serious matter and it deserves a
      serious response from the President."

      Christopher Yukins, co-director of the Government
      Procurement Law Program at George Washington
      University, said politics is not supposed to play a
      part in awarding government contracts.

      "The basic rule is that procurement decisions have to
      be based upon reasonable criteria, they have to be
      based upon reasonable factors," Yukins said. "A purely
      political decision would not be considered a
      reasonable factor in awarding a federal contract and
      it would be simple for the contractor to challenge
      this as an unreasonable, irrational decision."

      Jackson joined the Bush administration in 2001 as
      HUD's deputy secretary and chief operating officer. He
      became HUD secretary in 2004.

      Before arriving in Washington, Jackson was president
      of American Electric Power-TEXAS in Austin. Before
      that, he had been president and chief executive of the
      Dallas Housing Authority.
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