Political vetting of HUD contractors

If you’re going to cancel a contract because the contractor isn’t a political supporter, at least don’t brag about it in public.

Boy, do I ever hope that Josh Marshall’s reader PHB made a good guess. It probably won’t be too hard for the HUD IG to find the contractor in question.

And can’t we just arrange to have a permanent Democratic primary campaign in Connecticut? Having a well-financed opponent seems to have reminded Joe Lieberman that he’s supposed to be a Democrat.

By the way: contractors getting dinged for political incorrectitude is nothing new, though I’ve never heard of anyone bragging about it in public before. Under Bush the First, my little consulting firm lost what was for us a huge contract with the Bureau of Justice Statistics after I helped Joe Biden show up the bogosity of Bill Bennett’s claim that the household survey results showed we’d just won the War on Drugs.

After I’d appeared at a press conference with Biden, Ed Meese called the Director of BJS and told him that my appearance was “a personal affront to the President.” (I heard that the next moring from my BJS contact.)

Two days later the Director, Joseph M. Bessette, called me and told me that the contract was cancelled because my obvious partisanship made it impossible for him to have confidence in the objectivity of my firm’s research product. (That’s not verbatim, but I’m pretty sure it’s a close paraphrase). He managed to say it without laughing out loud, which I thought was a pretty impressive feat.

Biden, of course, never lifted a finger on my firm’s behalf, since there wasn’t anything more he particularly wanted from me.

Bessette is now back at Claremont McKenna as &#8212 no, I’m not making this up &#8212 Professor of Government and Ethics.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

6 thoughts on “Political vetting of HUD contractors”

  1. Give Joe Bessette credit. He's one of the few who stood up for Larry Greenfeld, who later was fired as Director of BJS for trying to keep a study's findings intact, after Bob Novak went after him.

  2. I was utterly unsurprised by the story; I could say I was surprised that anyone was surprised. In my experience, the key factor in getting profitable government contracts is good relationships with the politicians–it's certainly true in my Democratic city.

  3. Isn't Claremont one of those private right-wing universities? ISTR a Claremont Institute, whose opening webpage read like Faux News+National Review+AEI.

  4. It's funny what gets play- this would seem to rank as just another day in Bushamerica, whereas you'd think the awarding of government defense contracts at Watergate poker-hooker parties might warrant 24-hour news channel stakeouts.

  5. Mike:
    I agree that Bessette was far from the worst. That's the problem.
    But on the other hand I don't believe for a second that Jeremy Travis would have done it.

  6. Barry: I know absolutely nothing about Mr. Bessette, but CMC isn't particularly conservative these days. It used to be pretty conservative, but it's been drifting more and more liberal; apparently the older faculty members lean right, and the newer lean left. The student body leans fairly left, too—they split 72-26 in favor of Kerry over Bush in 2004.

Comments are closed.