Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

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How does this look?

HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson has now come forward to say how sorry he is that in a public speech he told a story about how he kills government contracts if the owners of the companies in question don't support President Bush. Now he admits that it never happened. It wasn't true. And in fact he never lets politics interfere with HUD contracting decisions.

This reminds me of the time I walked into a bank and told them I'd stolen a bunch of their money even though I hadn't. I really regretted that.

Or the time I told a good friend I'd slept with his girlfriend even though I hadn't. I really regretted that too.

Alphonso Jackson. HUD Secretary.

We're going to be covering this in more depth today at TPMmuckraker. But let me say a few more things about the the North County Times article mentioned below.

Do you know what the threshold is for a government criminal investigator, the regional head of DOD's in-house investigative service, to go public and say on the record that someone isn't cooperating and that the scandal is much bigger than anyone thinks?

Also, consider Duke Cunningham. What would it take to get him to clam up? Duke is 64 years old. He's had cancer. He was just sentenced to 8+ years in prison. That might well be a death sentence. Who's he protecting? And what would make him think he's better off keeping quiet than telling investigators what they want to know?

San Diego's North County Times has a big scoop on the Cunningham scandal and Hookergate.

Apparently, even in the slammer, Duke isn't cooperating. He's not willing to give up the really big fish, it seems.

Says Rick Gwin, regional head of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, "In my opinion, he has not been cooperative and I have not gotten any information from him to further develop other targets. I was hoping that from a jail cell, he might become more cooperative, but we just don't have the cooperation that I think we should have."

And then Gwin says this: "This is much bigger and wider than just Randy 'Duke' Cunningham. All that has just not come out yet, but it won't be much longer and then you will know just how widespread this is."

So now we've got the response from the self-confessedly corrupt Alphonso Jackson.

He was just kidding.

HUD spokeswoman Dustee Tucker told the Chicago Sun-Times: ''The secretary's story was anecdotal. He is not part of the contracting process. He was trying to explain to this group how politics works in D.C."

This doesn't sound like a particularly exculpatory explanation. That story was made up. Jackson was just how explaining how he does business?

Then there's this ...

Tucker said Jackson does not plan to resign. She acknowledged that he did not tell the audience the story was made up. But, she said, Jackson used the ''hypothetical'' story to describe the ruthless politics of Washington. She said Jackson was trying to convey that Washington is a place where political opponents, rather than stabbing you in the back, ''will stab you in the chest.''

This 'hypothetical' sounds more like he was trying to explain how he operates.

Too much information?

As we delve ever deeper into the web of corruption connecting Duke Cunningham, Brent Wilkes, Dusty Foggo, Mitchell Wade, et al., I was flipping tonight through my Duke Cunningham file -- news clips, documents, reporter's notes, etc. -- and I realized I'd forgotten this golden oldie from the Duke book of love.

In addition to the Wilkes' party suites at the Watergate and the Westin Grand, there's always been talk of some pretty freewheeling parties down at the marina on the Duke-Stir, allegedly involving the same mix of booze and women and cigars, at least a couple other members of Congress, and who knows what else.

That stuff's never really seen the light of day in the legitimate press. But I'd forgotten that Copley News Service actually found two women willng to talk about what happened when the lights dimmed down on the yacht. Apparently when Duke got down to serious courting he would change from the congressman's get-up (seen above right) "into pajama bottoms and a turtleneck sweater to entertain them with chilled champagne by the light of a lava lamp."

Almost Hefneresque. Or maybe Austin Powers?

This is pure speculation from TPM Reader PHB. At a minimum, though, he raises a real oddity in the conversation HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson described in that speech. Maybe more ...

Just read the thinkprogress on the HUD thing. First comment set me thinking.

Why on earth would a contractor bidding for a contract come out and say 'I do not support your President'.

There is only one circumstance I can think of where that reply would come up in a sales call - IF THE CEO WAS ASKED FOR A CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTION.

I certainly would never bring up politics with any customer unless I knew what their politics were in advance and that they were compatible.

The politics issue has to have come from Jackson.

That is why he is making this peculiar statement, what he is really doing here is repeating his internalized self-justification for demanding a bribe and being rebuffed.

Isn't this sort of a good point?

Maybe the whole conversation Jackson recounted was a fictive one, meant to communicate a message without being literally true. Speech-making gives some license for that sort of thing, I suppose.

But why would anyone volunteer such a statement unprompted? Hopefully, a government contractor who didn't support President Bush wouldn't reduce him or herself to kow-towing. But if you're a businessman working hard for a government contract, would you bring up your opposition to the president, unprompted, to one of his chief appointees, when the whole topic isn't even appropriate to discuss?

I think PHB may be on to something.

Meanwhile, Sen. Lieberman's joining the calls for an investigation into the HUD Secretary.

One of the colorful characters we've been hearing about in the Wilkes/Foggo Hookergate scandal is this guy "Nine Fingers" -- a nine fingered former former CIA case officer who was a regular at the 'poker parties' and went to work for Goss on the House intel committee. Turns out that just before he reported for duty on the Hill, Brent Wilkes cut him a check for $5,000.