Probe demanded into political games at HUD

Two House Democrats on Tuesday called for a probe of contract decisions by the Housing and Urban Development Department under its current secretary to determine whether politics played a part in those awards.

The call from the top Democrats on the House Government Reform Committee and House Financial Services Committee follows statements reportedly made by HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson in Dallas that a contractor was first selected, but ultimately not awarded a contract because he said he did not “like” President Bush.

“If this account is accurate, your comments and actions were improper and most likely illegal,” Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Rep. Henry Waxman of California wrote to Jackson on Tuesday.

“Federal contracts should be awarded based on merit, not on whether a contractor likes or dislikes President Bush,” they wrote.

The congressmen requested Jackson provide all documents related to the contract he discussed in Dallas as well as any other contract the secretary personally reviewed, approved or was involved with at the department.

A HUD spokesman did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

According to a report in the Dallas Business Journal, Jackson told a minority real estate forum that a contractor “made a heck of a proposal” for an advertising contract and was selected.

But according to the report, Jackson said the contractor did not ultimately get the deal because the contractor later said he did not like Bush.

“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,” Jackson was reported as saying.

Frank and Waxman said those comments imply Jackson views government contracts as rewards for the administration’s political supporters.

© Reuters 2006