Life in The HUD

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You might be impressed with Stonewall Johnson’s performance over at the EPA. Or you might think that no department in the government could hope to transcend the politicization of the Justice Department, with its “loyal Bushies” and “good Americans.” But please give the Department of Housing and Urban Development its due. Because if there’s a department that’s shown the clearest evidence of cronyism and hard-nosed politicization, it’s HUD.

That’s thanks in part to its chief, Alphonso Jackson, who’s currently the focus of a federal investigation for slipping housing contracts to his buddies. All the trouble started when Jackson publicly questioned, “Why should I reward someone who doesn’t like the president, so they can use funds to try to campaign against the president?” Indeed, “Logic says they don’t get the contract. That’s the way I believe.”

But Jackson apparently had quite a team over there with similar beliefs. From The Washington Post:

After Philadelphia’s housing director refused a demand by President Bush’s housing secretary to transfer a piece of city property to a business friend, two top political appointees at the department exchanged e-mails discussing the pain they could cause the Philadelphia director.

“Would you like me to make his life less happy? If so, how?” Orlando J. Cabrera, then-assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, wrote about Philadelphia housing director Carl R. Greene.

“Take away all of his Federal dollars?” responded Kim Kendrick, an assistant secretary who oversaw accessible housing. She typed symbols for a smiley-face, “:-D,” at the end of her January 2007 note.

Cabrera wrote back a few minutes later: “Let me look into that possibility.”

Greene is suing Jackson for retaliating against Philadelphia because he’d denied Jackson’s buddy, conservative soul songwriter Kenny Gamble, a city property. “On the date these e-mails were sent,” the Post reports, “HUD notified the [Philadelphia] housing authority that it had been found in violation of rules requiring that 5 percent of housing be accessible to disabled residents.”

But it gets better. Cabrera abruptly resigned from his post last November. It was later reported that Cabrera had spoken to the feds as part of their investigation, and that he was not on “speaking terms” with Jackson. It was no coincidence: “HUD insiders say that the secretary was angry with Cabrera for speaking to investigators and considers him ‘a snitch,'” National Journal reported. You can imagine Jackson’s chagrin, since Cabrera seems like such a team player.

But it’s a rough place, HUD.