When you hear the word "consultant," you probably picture a sleek Washington insider who gets a thousand dollars an hour for nose jobs on dictators and smear-jobs on Democrats and between times gives obscenely ostentatious parties, which somehow end up being tax-deductible. That's not the whole story. Some of them are also landlords. Take Paul Manafort of Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly, which is a training ground for presidential campaign shock troops and represented Ferdinand Marcos. Manafort has youthful good looks, a smooth, noncommittal manner, but he displays aggrieved brown eyes. For his second appearance before the House Government Operations subcommittee looking into the Housing and Urban Development Department scandals, he was not prepared to be penitent. He obviously felt put upon. Manafort formed a development firm, CFM, with Victor Cruse, an alumnus of the Connecticut housing authority, who to the committee made much of a point of having helped fellow blacks in need of housing. He and Manafort effectively solicited "moderate rehabilitation funds" from HUD and put together a deal that brought in $31,163,400 in rent subsidies and tax breaks for a Seabrook, N.J., housing project. This all came about through channels that were thoroughly greased. Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly hires alumni of the agencies that it might need to deal with. For instance, when the matter of getting the money for Seabrook was before the firm, there was Laurance Gay, who had worked as a full-time HUD consultant. He was chosen to sound out Deborah Gore Dean, "Silent Sam" Pierce's right arm, on the availability of "mod-rehab" funds for Seabrook -- although Manafort insisted he did it without mentioning the project's name. At least he tried to tell subcommittee Chairman Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) that he "may have mentioned Seabrook." He mentioned New Jersey, he even mentioned a number of units, "over 300" -- Seabrook has 326 -- but the actual name never crossed his lips. Manafort was equally vague about his altruistic but well-paid efforts to do his bit for the poor Hispanics and blacks who inhabit Seabrook. Members complained that the advertisement for bids was written in such a way that only Manafort's group could qualify -- "a tailor-made award for this set of units," Lantos called it. A current Black, Manafort employee, Gregg Stevens, who was then chief of staff for GOP Gov. Tom Kean of New Jersey, helped set up the meetings with state authorities. New York Housing Director William Connolly told the subcommittee that the ad soliciting competitive bids was "absolutely was a sham." Manafort's response: "We didn't write the ad." He was asked why he should be shown internal documents from HUD, and he said he didn't remember seeing them. Did he set the rents at Seabrook? "The setting of rent levels was approved by the PHA {public housing authority}," was his reply. Finally, he admitted that he "would have been involved." You could not blame him for being evasive. Some people paid $700 a month for the privilege of living in a place that Manafort says he is proud of, but has wisely never visited. Uncle Sam pays 70 percent of the tab. Seabrook sounds strictly Third World. The "moderate rehabilitation" has been extremely moderate. It has been going on for two years and is not yet complete. Refrigerators are considered a luxury; renters must provide their own. There are no washing machines. If keeping clean is a problem at Seabrook, keeping dry is an even greater one. Until the township passed an ordinance requiring them, Seabrook units had no rain gutters or downspouts. Cruse explained cheerily that they had to clean up the internal mess and put in acceptable toilet facilities before they could tackle the outside. Rep. Ted Weiss (D-N.Y.) pressed him angrily -- it was raining cats and dogs outside at the time -- about the inevitability of external problems becoming internal problems, but Cruse couldn't see it. Lantos provided the clincher: a woman, trying to survive in Seabrook, had her water-damaged, living-room ceiling cave in on her. The hearings are instructive on several levels. The ordinary citizen listening to Manafort's tales of well-placed operatives at every turn would despair of getting the slightest consideration from a federal agency without an enforcer by his side. The other conclusion is that while Ronald Reagan was merrily cutting housing money for the poor, the call went out to all the hungry lobbyists in town: "Come and get it."