Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Meet the New Boss

This week brought the resignation of disgraced HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson, and his replacement with disgraceful Small Business Administration head Steven Preston. If you haven't been keeping track of this particular criminally corrupt Federal agency, Jackson was the cabinet member who said at a Dallas meeting of real estate executives that he had revoked the contract of a businessman who disparaged President Bush. It later turned out that Jackson received a $392,000 kickback from a friend who was hired by Jackson's department as a construction manager in New Orleans. Another friend, an Atlanta developer, received a $127 million HUD contract last year and then paid Mr. Jackson more than $250,000 in fees. Unsurprisingly, there are dozens of such stories.

Jackson, who resigned with the statement that "there are times when one must attend more diligently to personal and family matters," is now the target of investigations by a federal grand jury, the FBI and the Justice Department. In addition to the deep corruption, Jackson leaves a legacy of a collapsing Post-Katrina public-housing system and a vast mortgage crisis that has shaken the global economy.

And just when it seemed like things couldn't get any worse, the new head of HUD has exactly ZERO experience in housing. Before his term at the SBA, Preston was the executive vice president of the ServiceMaster Company, a multibillion-dollar corporation whose businesses include ChemLawn, a famously toxic lawn care company, and Terminix, a pest control company. Preston had his own corruption hearings in 2007 when it surfaced that his agency had given a $1.2 million contract to a former Bush administration official with no experience in helping small businesses.

Sheila Crowley, the always outspoken president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, was interviewed in the most recent issue of Newsweek about the shameful record of the ousted secretary and how little she expects from the new one.

It's a short and good article, worth reading when you have a spare moment for outrage.

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