"I will restore honor and integrity to the White House."
George W. Bush
It’s low-hanging fruit, I know, but after reading yesterday’s news, I had to chuckle to myself. Not necessarily at the misfortunes of the people involved, but at the context.
Three scandals in one day is noteworthy even for the Bush administration. And I know that every White House — Republican and Democratic — has its share of scandals. The mix of money, power, and intrigue in Washington makes it inevitable, especially when you throw in a dash or two of temptation and human fallibility.
But three scandals breaking in one day is big news, or it ought to be, for a president and an administration (and a party, for that matter) pledging to "restore honor and integrity" to the White House, Washington, and government self. And, yes, when you recall that these people were self-appointed exemplars of morality who were going to "show us how it’s done" and set an example for the rest of us, it’s kind of funny.
There are (at least) three new scandals to add to the Bush administration’s scandal sheet. If you’re so inclined, and it hasn’t been done already, you can add them to the Wikipedia category dedicated to the subject.
I had only just read that HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson might resign, when I got word that he had resigned. Sure enough, I refreshed my screen and the article has already been updated.
The Bush administration’s top housing official, under criminal investigation and intense pressure from Democratic critics, announced Monday he is quitting.
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson said his resignation will take effect on April 18. The move comes at a shaky time for the economy and the Bush administration, as the housing industry’s crisis has imperiled the nation’s credit markets and led to a major economic slowdown.
Jackson, 62, has been fending off allegations of cronyism and favoritism involving HUD contractors for the past two years. The FBI has been examining the ties between Jackson and a friend who was paid $392,000 by Jackson’s department as a construction manager in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
…President Bush said he accepted Jackson’s resignation "with regret."
"I have known Alphonso Jackson for many years, and I have known him to be a strong leader and a good man," Bush said in a prepared statement released by the White House.
It turns out that Jackson’s resignation is something of a first for the Bush administration.
For the first time in President Bush’s tenure, one of his Cabinet members is stepping down amid a criminal investigation.
…Other Bush Cabinet members, such as former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, have left office under political clouds. But Jackson, 62, is the highest-ranking Bush official to depart in this manner. Last June, former deputy Interior secretary Steven Griles was convicted and sent to prison for lying to a congressional panel about the access and favors he gave to lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Usually, people in Bush’s administration resign before they’re arrested. (Makes it much easier to claim no arrests, etc., among your staff if they aren’t cuffed until after they’ve handed in their resignations.)
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."
Jackson’s employees may have been following his lead. But the people who worked under Stuart W. Bowen went before a grand jury instead.
A focus of the investigation is whether Bowen and Cruz read staff e-mails even after the office of the Army general counsel advised them in writing that doing so would be improper, according to sources questioned by investigators and documents obtained by The Washington Post. The Army Information Center provides SIGIR’s e-mail service.
A federal criminal statute prohibits knowingly accessing a government computer without authorization or exceeding the scope of one’s authorized access. A separate federal law makes it a crime to access electronic communications, such as e-mails, without authorization. Both statutes provide for fines and prison time.
Four former SIGIR officials said they told investigators that Bowen and Cruz looked at e-mails of several employees. One official claimed to have witnessed Bowen going through e-mails of three employees in late 2005.
…"Bowen and Cruz were looking at e-mails to find out who was loyal and who was not," said a former SIGIR official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.
Berenson said senior officials reviewed employee e-mails "as part of an authorized internal investigation into possible press leaks. SIGIR policy permits such e-mail reviews and all employees are notified, regularly reminded and trained on these policies."
In an e-mailed statement Wednesday, Cruz blamed disgruntled employees for the complaints to federal authorities. "SIGIR has provided a remarkably effective service in identifying and pursuing fraud and waste in the United States’ mission in Iraq over the past four years," she wrote. "Former employees who have been less committed to our mission and others who have been the subject of our work evidently want to distract our attention and derail our work."
What is it in this administration with mishandled emails and retaliatory firings? In any case, Bowen and Cruz (and the folks at HUD) should have known that the most important thing when it comes to employee emails is to destroy the hard drives. That way they don’t end up getting into the hand of people who are "less committed to your mission."
And speaking of fraud, how about the White house aide who just resigned?
An aide to President Bush has resigned because of his alleged misuse of grant money from the United States Agency for International Development when he worked for a Cuban democracy organization.
The aide, Felipe Sixto, was promoted on March 1 as a special assistant to the president for intergovernmental affairs. He stepped forward on March 20 to reveal his alleged wrongdoing and to resign, a White House spokesman, Scott Stanzel, said on Friday.
No word on how much, but there were millions available via no-bid contracts; a Bush administration favorite.
In 2006, the Government Accountability Office pointed out that most Cuba grants were awarded without competitive bids, and it found some instances of abuse, such as the purchase of cashmere sweaters with U.S. taxpayer money. But the report also found that the grant money led to large amounts of equipment and literature getting distributed to Cuban democracy activists.
Calzon’s Center for a Free Cuba works with foreign governments and activists in Cuba to raise awareness of human rights abuses and distributes literature and other materials on the island. Calzon said it was the center that initiated an investigation in mid-January when the allegation of misused funds emerged.
Calzon said he expects that any misappropriated funds will be returned to the federal government.
I wonder if it’s more than that NRCC treasurer "misappropriated." Oh well I love a parade, and this one — if disgraced Bushies — appears to be endless