Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Tuesday asked the Inspector General of the Department of Housing and Urban Development to investigate the Secretary’s apparent decision to rescind a HUD contract to a man who said he disliked President Bush.
In a letter to Inspector General Kenneth M. Donohue, Senator Lieberman referred to a press report recounting Secretary Alphonso Jackson’s speech before the Real Estate Executive Council in which he told the story of a man who had submitted a “heck of a proposal… so we selected him.” But when the contractor thanked the Secretary in person, the contractor made a negative remark about Bush, and the Secretary withdrew the awarded contract. “Our government’s procurement laws… are supposed to be executed based on merit, without partiality or political bias,” Lieberman wrote. “I truly hope that the Secretary was misquoted, but 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. The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has jurisdiction over procurement issues. Following is the letter: May 9, 2006 The Honorable Kenneth M. Donohue Inspector General Department of Housing and Urban Development 451 7th St. SW Washington, DC 20410 Dear Inspector General Donohue: I am concerned about a comment reportedly made by Secretary Jackson which indicated that he had decided to rescind a contract award based on the prospective contractor’s disagreement with the Administration’s political views. A May 5, 2006, article in the Dallas Business Journal entitled “HUD Secretary’s Blunt Warning,” quoted the following from an April 28, 2006, speech Secretary Jackson gave to the Real Estate Executive Council, a national minority real estate consortium: “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.” The Secretary’s words, if they are accurately reported, are very troubling. Our government’s procurement laws, over which the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has jurisdiction, are supposed to be executed based on merit, without partiality or political bias. I truly hope that the Secretary was misquoted, but 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. Specifically, I ask you to answer the following questions: (1) Did Secretary Jackson make the comments quoted above? (2) If so, were they accurate? (3) What was the specific contract described by the Secretary and who was the specific contractor? (4) Had the contractor been awarded the contract initially, and if not, how far in the process had the contractor progressed? (5) Under what authority was the contract ultimately denied to the contractor? (6) Did the Secretary’s or the Department’s actions with respect to this contractor violate any governing rule, regulation or law, or infringe upon the contractor’s First Amendment rights? (7) What role do the political views or affiliations of prospective contractors generally play in HUD’s contracting decisions? (8) What controls does HUD have in place to ensure that it abides by governing rules, regulations and laws regarding impartiality in contracting? (9) What actions are appropriate to take in response to the findings your office makes? I thank you for your cooperation and look forward to hearing from you. Sincerely, Joseph I. Lieberman Ranking Member