It all began on May 5, 2006, when the Dallas Business Journal reported that during an April 28, 2006, speech in Dallas, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson said he wouldn't award HUD contracts to folks who "have a problem" with his boss and good pal President Bush. The comment sparked an investigation of the former Dallas Housing Authority chief: Kenneth Donohue, Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, assembled a 340-page report in September '06 that showed Jackson "personally intervened with contractors whom he did not like ... these contractors had Democratic political affiliations," but also that there was "no direct proof that Jackson's staff obeyed" his orders.
Turns out, the investigation of Alphonso Jackson is far from over.
Yesterday, the National Journal reported that Jackson's former second-in-command, lobbyist Scott Keller, "played an important role" in the HUD-controlled Housing Authority of New Orleans' decision to award a $127-million redevelopment project to a team that included an Atlanta company called Columbia Residential. Reported the Journal:
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That firm has significant financial ties to Jackson: It owes him between $250,000 and $500,000 "for past services," according to the HUD secretary's public financial disclosure reports.
Separately, according to people familiar with the investigation, federal agents are closely examining whether Keller aided Jackson in arranging lucrative housing work for two of Jackson's close friends. One of them got work at HANO, and the other received a contract to manage the Virgin Islands Housing Authority. Last month, a federal agent served a search warrant at Keller's home in Alexandria, Va., the sources said.
Today, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution follows up the Virgin Island Housing Authority connection:
Federal investigators are probing how Atlanta entrepreneur Michael R. Hollis landed a series of hefty government contracts to run the Virgin Islands Housing Authority without any known experience in public housing.
The inquiry into Hollis is part of a larger investigation into whether U.S. Housing Secretary Alphonso Jackson has steered contracts to friends in violation of federal law prohibiting political favoritism.