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May 9, 2006
Loyalty Oaths At HUD?

Government bureaucracies serve at least one benign purpose in democracies -- they should ensure that citizens will get impartial treatment when it comes to services and contracts. Unfortunately that system failed according to one of the men supposedly in charge of a good-sized section of one, and now the Bush administration has to answer why its HUD Secretary steered contracts according to the political preferences of their recipients:

Once the color barrier has been broken, minority contractors seeking government work may need to overcome the Bush barrier.

That's the message U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson seemed to send during an April 28 talk in Dallas.

Jackson, a former president and CEO of the Dallas Housing Authority, was among the featured speakers at a forum sponsored by the Real Estate Executive Council, a national minority real estate consortium.

After discussing the huge strides the agency has made in doing business with minority-owned companies, Jackson closed with a cautionary tale, relaying a conversation he had with a prospective advertising contractor.

"He had made every effort to get a contract with HUD for 10 years," Jackson said of the prospective contractor. "He made a heck of a proposal and was on the (General Services Administration) list, so we selected him. He came to see me and thank me for selecting him. Then he said something ... he said, 'I have a problem with your president.'

"I said, 'What do you mean?' He said, 'I don't like President Bush.' 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.'

"He didn't get the contract," Jackson continued. "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."

This is, bluntly, appalling. If Jackson wants to work on the GOP election campaign as a contracts administrator, then he has every right to deny contracts to those who do not support the GOP. However, as Secretary of HUD, Jackson has ceased representing George Bush and the Republicans and now should work on behalf of all Americans. The government serves all of us, regardless of political orientation, and it had better do so fairly and in an even-handed manner.

Raw Story (via The Moderate Voice) reports that Senator Frank Lautenberg has demanded Jackson's resignation from the Bush cabinet. I don't often agree with Lautenberg, but if the Dallas Business Journal has reported this correctly, then Lautenberg is right. Jackson has to go, and go now.

Jon Henke at QandO wants to go further and have him prosecuted. I'm not sure if Jackson broke any criminal laws in his actions, but he violated the public trust in his partisan hackery. That's enough to get his ticket punched as far as I'm concerned. The Bush administration needs to send a message that partisanship should not infect the ability of American citizens to compete fairly for government contracts.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 9, 2006 9:02 PM

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