When it comes to scandals at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Reagan-era controversies would appear to take the cake. As Joe Conason explained not too long ago, Reagan’s HUD scandal included “politically connected Republicans criminally exploit[ing] the same housing assistance programs they routinely denounced as ‘wasteful.’”
As it turns out, Bush’s HUD scandals aren’t generating nearly the same amount of attention, but the controversies are nearly as serious.
Housing Secretary Alphonso Jackson demanded that the Philadelphia Housing Authority transfer a $2 million public property to a developer at a substantial discount, then retaliated against the housing authority when it refused to do so, a recent court filing alleges.
The authority’s director, Carl Greene, contends in a court affidavit that Jackson called Philadelphia’s mayor in 2006 to demand the transfer to the developer, Kenny Gamble, a former soul-music songwriter who is a business friend of Jackson’s. Jackson’s aides followed up with “menacing” threats about the property and other housing programs in at least a dozen letters and phone calls over an 11-month period, Greene said in an interview.
Greene and his colleagues have alleged in the court filing that Philadelphia is now paying a severe price for disobeying a Bush Cabinet official. The Department of Housing and Urban Development recently vowed to strip the city’s housing authority of its ability to spend some federal funds, a move that the authority said could raise rents for most of its 84,000 low-income tenants and force the layoffs of 250 people. […]
“The secretary was determined that we turn over this land to this specific developer,” Greene said in an interview. “I refused. . . . He didn’t have the ability to remove me. So he resorted to these extraordinary measures to extract what he wanted.”
Mark Kleiman notes that Bush and Jackson have effectively turned the Department of Housing and Urban Development into “an extortion racket,” which, under the circumstances, sounds about right.