The Disgrace That Is Bush's Housing Department

Picking the single worst, most ineffective, most scandal-ridden Bush cabinet agency isn’t easy. Sure, Alberto Gonzales’ Justice Department has to get the top spot, but there’s Rumsfeld’s Pentagon, Paige’s Department of Education, and Chertoff’s DHS.

But let’s not overlook Alphonso Jackson’s HUD, for my money, every bit as corrupt and ridiculous as any cabinet agency in decades.

We learned last month that Jackson, who has a history of allowing political considerations to dictate policy matters, demanded that the Philadelphia Housing Authority transfer a $2 million public property to a friendly developer at a substantial discount. When the housing authority balked, Jackson retaliated, including threats about the availability of federal funding.

Today, there are some additional details, which make Bush’s HUD look even worse.

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.”

The similarities between Bush administration agencies and organized-crime families are routinely striking, but this is ridiculous.

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