Jackson’s Chief of Staff Camille Pierce told the IG Jackson did not like several contractors, including Abt Associates, the Urban Institute (UI), Quadel Consulting, and TAG Associates.
Pierce testified that Jackson specifically called on staff to cancel a proposed contract with UI and tried to block an award to Abt Associates. Jackson eventually “signed off” on both awards.
Quadel had a little more than $3 million in HUD contracts in 2000 and again in 2001, and contracts totaling about $800,000 between 2002 and 2003. It had no HUD contracts at all in 2004 and 2005, until landing one in 2006 for $919,173. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) records revealed no significant political donations by company employees.
In 2000, UI was awarded $6,830,000 in HUD contracts. In fiscal 2005, Jackson’s first full fiscal year as secretary, the institute received no contracts and in 2006, it received $300,000.
From 1997 through April 30, 2007, UI employees contributed a total of $45,500 to Democratic candidates and political action committees that support Democratic candidates, according to the FEC. During the same time, one UI employee contributed $500 to one Republican candidate.
What role does politics play?
HUD staff said the focus on increasing contracts to blacks and Hispanics makes perfect sense given that, like Ronald Reagan before him, President Bush has looked to the secretary of HUD to play a lead role in political outreach to minorities.
The department began to show overt favoritism to businesses owned by Republicans in 2004, according to the owner of one HUD contracting firm, who is a Democrat. This contractor, who requested anonymity, said his firm had lost HUD business because of the department’s bias.
In testimony to the IG, two senior HUD staff said Jackson began to speak openly about the need for a political rationale in contracting decisions in 2006.
In a meeting held in April or May of 2006, Jackson told senior staff that the politics of potential contractors should be considered in the contracting process, according to testimony from Pierce and Bernardi to the IG. In addition, the IG quotes Pierce as saying that Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development Pamela Patenaude also heard Jackson talk about the need to consider the political affiliation of a contractor.
Pierce said she’d heard Jackson make similar remarks twice.
Jackson said he did not remember making such a statement: “I just cannot recall ever making that statement. And I don’t know who said it, but it’s baffling to me if they told you I had made that statement because I think I could recall. I just honestly do not recall making a statement like that.”
Although he stated that he does not help any firm get contracts, Jackson told the IG under oath that he was biased against critics of Bush and he would definitely not help any of them.
“I’m not going to go out of my way to help somebody who’s castigating me and the president,” Jackson said. “But I’ll tell you this, I will not interfere with the contract review board either, and I haven’t. And that’s as clear as I can be. Now, if that’s my bias, I have it.”
Jackson testified that he never cancelled a contract, but IG witnesses said he tried to do exactly that in at least two cases.
Pierce said Jackson wanted to cancel a contract to UI but later allowed it to go through.
The most notable attempt involved a proposed $5.3 million award for Abt Associates. Headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., Abt has 1,000 employee-owners and operates internationally. It was founded in 1965, and had revenue of $193 million in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2006.
The testimony gathered by the IG suggests that there was a blatant attempt by Jackson to prevent Abt from getting a contract for political reasons.
The trouble started when HUD program staff ranked Abt as the best proposal in response to a Notice of Funding Availability for providing technical assistance to improve the effectiveness of homeless assistance programs funded by HUD’s Continuum of Care Programs.