May 12, 2006
Bush housing chief investigated over contract flap
By Caren Bohan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An inspector general is
investigating allegations that Housing and Urban Development
Secretary Alphonso Jackson may have improperly considered
politics in withholding a federal contract.
But a White House official said on Friday that President
George W. Bush was standing by his Cabinet secretary and
longtime friend and would withhold judgment on any
investigation "at this point."
Jackson was quoted in the Dallas Business Journal as citing
a contractor's dislike of Bush in describing an incident in
which that person was denied a contract.
The report said that Jackson had told a real estate forum:
"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
Jackson and a spokeswoman later disavowed the comments but
Democrats called for an investigation.
"We have received a number of complaints from the public as
well as from members of Congress," said Michael Zerega,
spokesman for HUD's inspector general. "We are reviewing this
matter and will look to the facts and any applicable law or
Pressed on whether Bush would withhold judgment pending an
investigation by the Inspector General's office, White House
spokesman Tony Snow said, "At this point the president is
supporting Alphonso Jackson.
"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," Snow said.
Two Democratic congressmen, Barney Frank of Massachusetts
and Henry Waxman of California, wrote to Jackson saying the
comments originally reported by Jackson would be "improper and
most likely illegal."
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat, has called
for Jackson's resignation.
HUD spokeswoman Dustee Tucker has said Jackson was speaking
anecdotally and offering an example of "how politics works in
D.C." She also said Jackson was not involved in contract
decisions at HUD.
(Additional reporting by Kristin Roberts)