Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Next Time on The Sopranos…

Josh Marshall and a whole slew of blogs have been over this story about HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson denying a contract to a bidder because he doesn’t like President Bush.

“He had made every effort to get a contract with HUD for 10 years,” Jackson said of the prospective contractor. “He made a heck of a proposal and was on the (General Services Administration) list, so we selected him. He came to see me and thank me for selecting him. Then he said something … he said, ‘I have a problem with your president.’

[…]

“He didn’t get the contract,” Jackson continued. “Why should I reward someone who doesn’t like the president, so they can use funds to try to campaign against the president? Logic says they don’t get the contract. That’s the way I believe.”

Once you get your breath back and realize that it’s probably illegal for a contractor to be denied a contract because of political leanings, you’re probably wondering why a CEO would, out of the blue, tell the HUD Secretary something like that? One of Josh’s readers thinks he has figured that out.

There is only one circumstance I can think of where that reply would come up in a sales call – IF THE CEO WAS ASKED FOR A CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTION.

I certainly would never bring up politics with any customer unless I knew what their politics were in advance and that they were compatible.

The politics issue has to have come from Jackson.

That is why he is making this peculiar statement, what he is really doing here is repeating his internalized self-justification for demanding a bribe and being rebuffed. [Emphasis in original]

As Josh notes, that is pure speculation on the part of the reader, but it does make sense in the context of a conversation where someone’s being told they have a shot at a deal and to make it really happen, how about coughing up a couple of bucks for the RNC?

Now the Secretary’s office is saying he was being “anecdotal.” As Tim Grieve notes, “It’s not every day that a department spokesman says that a Cabinet secretary is lying, but desperate times call for desperate measures.” This is getting some attention elsewhere, namely Capitol Hill. Along with Lieberman, Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey is calling for Sec. Jackson to resign. (That’s not to say that a senator from the home state of Tony Soprano would know a little something about the nature of such business…)

Sometimes I think the only difference between The Sopranos and the Bush administration is that one is on HBO and the other is on C-SPAN.