HUD Secretary Apologizes for Story

By STEPHEN OHLEMACHER
The Associated Press
Wednesday, May 10, 2006; 6:33 PM

WASHINGTON -- Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson apologized Wednesday for telling a Dallas business group that he had rejected a HUD contract because the contractor had criticized President Bush.

Jackson, seeking to avoid a political firestorm, said he made up the story.

"I deeply regret the anecdotal remarks I made at a recent Texas small business forum and would like to reassure the public that all HUD contracts are awarded solely on a stringent merit-based process," Jackson said in a statement. "During my tenure, no contract has ever been awarded, rejected, or rescinded due to the personal or political beliefs of the recipient."

At the April 28 event, Jackson told about a minority contractor who finally had landed an advertising contract with HUD after trying for 10 years, according to an article in the Dallas Business Journal.

Jackson said that when the man approached him to thank him for the contract, the contractor said he didn't like Bush.

"He didn't get the contract," Jackson told the group, according to the newspaper. "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."

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., who had called for Jackson's resignation, said Jackson still should be investigated.

"Its encouraging to see the secretary express regret for sending the improper message that government contracts are tied to political support for the president," Lautenberg said in a statement.

Jackson said that during his tenure, the department has increased the number and amount of contracts it has awarded to minority-owned businesses.

"Under my leadership, HUD's procurement doors have been opened to provide equal access to small businesses," Jackson said.

Jackson joined the Bush administration in 2001 as HUD's deputy secretary and chief operating officer. He became HUD secretary in 2004.

Before arriving in Washington, Jackson was president of American Electric Power-TEXAS in Austin. Before that, he had been president and chief executive of the Dallas Housing Authority.


© 2006 The Associated Press