Action Jackson

ACTION JACKSON….When we last left him, HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson was gleefully telling an audience that he had scuttled an advertising contract after the winning bidder told him he didn’t like George Bush much. “He didn’t get the contract,” Jackson said. “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.”

Later Jackson said he had just been kidding, and HUD’s inspector general let him off the hook even though three HUD staffers remembered him saying something similar at a staff meeting. Now, though, it appears that Jackson may have been doing more than merely keeping contracts away from people who didn’t support the Bush administration. Apparently he was also steering business to his friends:

Behind the scenes, Jackson has helped to arrange lucrative contract work running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars for friends and associates who went to work at HUD-controlled housing authorities in New Orleans and the Virgin Islands, according to people familiar with his actions. Indeed, one of Jackson’s good friends, Atlanta lawyer Michael Hollis, appears to have been paid approximately $1 million for managing the troubled Virgin Islands Housing Authority.

….[Another friend,] William Hairston, a stucco contractor from Hilton Head Island, S.C….acknowledged that Jackson had helped him land a lucrative job around January 2006 at the Housing Authority of New Orleans, or HANO. HUD and a former HANO official have said that Hairston was paid about $485,000 for working as a construction manager at HANO during an 18-month period.

Edward Pound of National Journal has the full story of the investigation by a federal grand jury, Justice Department prosecutors, the FBI, and the HUD inspector general’s office here.