HUD chief says story on contract cancellation was not true

Secretary says his anecdote about political views scuttling a contract award was fictional.

Alphonso Jackson, secretary of the Housing and Urban Development Department, told a Dallas audience last month that he personally canceled a minority businessman's contract award in response to negative comments about President Bush. But in a Wednesday press release, Jackson said the anecdote was apocryphal.

In his comments, first reported in the Dallas Business Journal last Friday, Jackson described how a contractor had been pursuing HUD work for 10 years. Finally, "He made a heck of a proposal and was on the [General Services Administration] list, so we selected him," Jackson reportedly said. "He came to see me and thank me for selecting him. Then he said something ... he said, 'I have a problem with your president,' " the secretary continued.

"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,' " Jackson told the audience, adding that the man did not get the contract.

"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," he concluded.

If the secretary had, in fact, rescinded a contract offer made to a previously selected company, such action would fly in the face of federal rules that strictly spell out what factors may be considered by agencies in contracting decisions and how those should be weighed. Those rules do not permit political leanings to influence contract awards.

But in a statement released late Wednesday, Jackson said, "I deeply regret the anecdotal remarks I made … 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 During my tenure, no contract has ever been awarded, rejected or rescinded due to the personal or political beliefs of the recipient."

Asked whether the secretary had informed the audience that the story was not true, HUD spokesman Jereon Brown said, "I don't think he highlighted it."

Reports of Jackson's remarks drew considerable attention on Capitol Hill. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, on Tuesday asked HUD Inspector General Kenneth Donohue to investigate the matter.

"In order to assure the American people that our procurement laws and our government are not being administered in an arbitrary and capricious manner, I ask that you immediately look into this incident," Lieberman wrote.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., ranking member on the House Government Reform Committee, and Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., ranking member on the House Financial Services Committee, also cried foul.

"The Bush administration has a track record of rewarding its friends and ignoring the rules," they wrote in a Tuesday letter to Jackson requesting an explanation of the reports. "The government has no right to blatantly withhold contracts simply because an American citizen dislikes the president," they wrote.

Helen Albert, HUD deputy inspector general for management and policy, indicated that the office had received "a number of complaints" from Congress and the public. "We are reviewing this matter, and will look to the facts and any applicable laws or requirements," she said.

Whether the anecdote Jackson recounted was based on fact or was a fable told to illustrate a larger point about the challenges of navigating Washington business and politics, it reflects poorly on a procurement system already reeling from corruption and fraud scandals, some observers say.

"If we were to step back into a system where procurement decisions were being based on politics, it would be a giant step backward for the procurement system," said Chris Yukins, co-director of the Government Procurement Law Program at The George Washington University.

He warned that an "invasion" of politics into the system would necessitate reducing the discretion available to contracting officials. "In a system like that -- like the systems we have in a developing nation where procurement officials have no discretion because they can't be trusted with that discretion -- consistently … governments make purchases that are not necessarily the best value," he said.

Based on his Dallas remarks, Jackson appeared well aware of the potential for individual gain from successful federal contracting. "Whether it's HUD or another agency, the opportunities are there," he was reported to have told the audience. "The most amazing thing I've ever seen is the amount of contracts we hand out every day. Just one contract can make you wealthy."

Steve Kelman, former head of the Office of Management and Budget's procurement policy shop and currently a Harvard professor and industry consultant, described Jackson's remarks as appalling. "HUD is not well known for being at the forefront of federal contracting excellence," Kelman said, speculating that Cabinet secretaries with larger contracting portfolios would not have made such a remark.

"Anyone whose view of the procurement system is that it should be used to reward political friends or punish political enemies, is ethically unfit to be a Cabinet secretary," Kelman said. "I mean, the defense of him is that he was lying."

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.