Report: HUD Official Interfered With, Attempted to Obstruct Federal Investigation of Agency’s Lobbying Activity
Official Told Investigators He Coordinated With White House
February 25, 2014 -
NOTE: Subcommittee hearing Wednesday, Feb. 26 at 10 a.m. on Inspector General’s report in Room 2128 Rayburn Building.
Inquiries from the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations led to an Inspector General’s report that reveals senior officials at the Department of Housing and Urban Development improperly engaged in lobbying activity and attempted to obstruct the investigation into those activities.
According to the Inspector General’s report, one of those senior HUD officials claimed he had coordinated with the White House to withhold information from Congress.
“HUD’s actions display the appearance of impropriety and of ethical regressions,” Inspector General David Montoya said in written testimony submitted to the Subcommittee.
“The misuse of taxpayer resources for blatant political lobbying uncovered in this report is simply unacceptable. Even more troubling, however, are the revelations of agency leaders attempting to cover it up by obstructing an Inspector General investigation,” said Subcommittee Chairman Patrick McHenry (R-NC). “I look forward to hearing Inspector General Montoya’s testimony as we continue to provide vigorous oversight of HUD and the Obama Administration as a whole.”
The Subcommittee requested the investigation by the HUD Office of Inspector General (OIG) in August 2013 after learning that then-Deputy Secretary Maurice Jones sent an email to “friends and colleagues” urging them to contact U.S. senators before a key vote on the annual HUD spending bill.
The report reveals that Elliot Mincberg, the Acting General Deputy Assistant Secretary at HUD, “took steps to interfere with” and “also attempted to obstruct” the investigation.
Mincberg “also threatened the investigating agents” and said he “had coordinated with ‘White House Counsel’” because he did not want information about HUD’s lobbying activities to be given to “’Republicans’ on the congressional committee,” according to the report.
The Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee will hold a hearing on Wednesday at 10 a.m. to hear from and question the HUD Inspector General about the investigation and report.
In his testimony, Inspector General Montoya said the e-mail was sent to individuals at organizations which receive HUD funding.
“Such organizations are generally prohibited from using federal funds to carry out certain lobbying activities. This e-mail asked these individuals to engage in activities that could violate federal law if federal funds were used to carry them out. Particularly noteworthy was the fact that one of the recipients, a large public housing authority, had recently been found by HUD-OIG to have violated federal requirements by using federal funds to carry out lobbying activities,” Montoya said.
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