It's probably a safe bet that former president and CEO of the Dallas Housing Authority, Alphonso Jackson, wishes he'd never given that April 2006 speech in Dallas, during which he said, "If you have a problem with the president," you won't get a contract with the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department. Jackson, the HUD secretary, has been under intense scrutiny ever since: As recently as late December, there was word that federal investigators were looking at Jackson's connections with one company given a $127-million redevelopment project in New Orleans and another man chosen to run the Virgin Islands Housing Authority despite his having no prior public-housing experience.
Today, the National Journal offers a subscription-only follow-up that says federal investigators, the FBI and a Washington, D.C., grand jury are digging even deeper into Jackson's affairs and discovering further connections, including a "stucco contractor" with whom Jackson is pals and to whom the HUD secretary helped awarded a contract worth about $500,000 for work in New Orleans. Also revealed: Jackson's wife Marcia, now a D.C.-based consultant, also had "financial ties to at least two companies that did business at" the Housing Authority of New Orleans (or HANO), one of which is a Houston-based company called MetroplexCore, whose president was a President Bush appointee to the Federal Home Loan Bank Board of Dallas in 2002.
Reports the National Journal:
Despite the criminal inquiry, which involves federal prosecutors, the grand jury, the FBI, and HUD investigators, Jackson has remained in the Cabinet post he has held since 2004. That is not entirely surprising. He is a close friend of President Bush's from their days in Texas. Jackson's wife is a friend of first lady Laura Bush's and often attends social functions at the White House. In 2001, President Bush appointed Mrs. Jackson to the Commission on Presidential Scholars.
Marcia Jackson, who ran a small marketing and development firm in Texas before moving to Washington, has represented only a few companies during her husband's time at HUD. Alphonso Jackson's public financial disclosure reports identify his wife as a "marketing consultant self-employed specializing in municiples & cities."
There is no indication that Mrs. Jackson is a target of the federal inquiry. Nonetheless, investigators recently began asking questions about two minority-owned companies that have worked on HANO projects and that have also used Mrs. Jackson as a consultant, according to a person familiar with the probe.
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Another name that has surfaced as an "important witness" in the government's investigation is Lori Moon, who worked with Jackson during his tenure at the Dallas Housing Authority. According to the National Journal, she was involved in choosing St. Louis-based Kennedy Associates, an architectural firm, for a $2.4-million design contract for a New Orleans apartment complex HUD wanted to partially replace that city's public housing projects. At the time the contract was awarded in 2003, Kennedy Associates "still owed [Marcia Jackson] an undisclosed amount of consulting fees."
From the National Journal again:
In a statement issued in response to questions from National Journal, Moon said she was aware at the time of the ... award in 2003 that Alphonso Jackson knew Michael E. Kennedy, the company's president and CEO. But she emphasized she was not aware that Mrs. Jackson had financial ties to Kennedy Associates. Moon said that any firm with such ties to Jackson or his wife should have been disqualified from doing business at HANO "given Mr. Jackson's involvement in the management decisions" at the New Orleans agency.
The new issue of the National Journal is on stands today. --Robert Wilonsky