Wednesday, May 10, 2006

HUD, continued

The Washington Post's Al Kamen has picked up the Alphonso Jackson story, but he doesn't add much to the discussion.

The New York Times, on the other hand, reports that Jackson denies the allegations.

But in a statement this afternoon, Mr. Jackson said, "I deeply regret the anecdotal remarks," and he said that during his tenure "no contract has ever been rewarded, rejected or rescinded due to the personal or political beliefs of the recipient." He said his agency is committed to awarding contracts "on a stringent merit-based process."A spokeswoman for Mr. Jackson told the business journal on Tuesday that his story was just meant to illustrate how some people in Washington "will unfairly characterize the president and then turn around the ask you for money." The spokeswoman, Dustee Tucker, said the secretary "did not actually meet with someone and turn down a contract."

Sounds a bit like the Dean Johnson "sanding off the truth" defense. "Anecdotal remarks"? As many observers noted during the Johnson brouhaha, either he's lying now or he lied then.

Given the available evidence, I lean toward the "lying now" end of things:

Ms. Tucker offered a somewhat different account of the Dallas incident last Wednesday, telling the business journal then that Mr. Jackson had been referring to "an advertising contract with a minority publication," although she said she could not give its value.

The paper that broke the story, the Dallas Business Journal, has additional updates:

According to the Center for American Progress and other sources, HUD Inspector General Kenneth H. Donohue is opening an investigation into Jackson's conduct. Calls to Donohue's office were not immediately returned.

Meanwhile, Sen. Joseph Lieberman is calling for an investigation, joining Barney Frank and Henry Waxman on that count.

There was also this interesting bit:

Dustee Tucker, a spokeswoman for HUD, who attended the April 28 event and responded to media questions regarding Jackson's statements at the forum, is on leave. Brown says Taylor's leave had nothing to do with the way in which she handled the situation.

Separately, Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., has asked Jackson to release all records related to another company, Shirlington Limo, that won a HUD contract despite a lengthy rap sheet. That seems more smoke than fire at the moment.

Let's wait for the investigation, if there is one. If all Jackson did was tell a tall tale, then he should suffer the same fate as Dean Johnson: public embarassment and chastisement. But if Jackson actually intervened in the contracting process and used politics to decide who got HUD contracts, he needs to resign.

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