WASHINGTON — In the weeks before the Clinton administration left office, the Department of Housing and Urban Development spent more than $200,000 on reports on the agency's work. Ever since, critics have been calling the effort little more than self-promotion aimed at boosting then-Secretary Andrew Cuomo's candidacy for New York governor.
Cuomo authorized 5,000 copies of "HUD International," which documents the agency's work in Central America and the Caribbean, China, Mexico, South Africa and Israel. The 62-page report includes 15 photos of Cuomo and cost $53,500.
The report was printed in the first two weeks in January. Cuomo's tenure ended along with President Clinton's on Jan. 20.
"Exposing Injustice," which cost $162,509 for 10,000 copies, chronicled HUD initiatives designed to combat racial and economic inequality and included at least 11 photographs of Cuomo.
"There have been former Cabinet secretaries who have had political ambitions but they have not been as blatant about it as Secretary Cuomo," said Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, a Washington-based private group.
Nearly half of the copies of "HUD International" were never distributed. Most are now sitting in storage in Washington, where the Bush administration sent them after taking power.
"The new administration felt the report did not fit the new HUD vision," HUD spokesman Jerry Brown said Wednesday.
Cuomo defended the report, saying HUD puts out hundreds like it every year.
"One of the things HUD did was issue reports that were of note to citizens, and that's what the department did," he said Wednesday in Buffalo, N.Y. "It accomplished things and I'm proud of that."
Cuomo, son of former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, announced his candidacy on Jan. 29.
Another HUD report, "A Vision for Change," was criticized by Rep. Robert Ney (R-Ohio). The 150-page report came out late last year and included its own CD-ROM and a $688,857 cost to the government. It devoted six pages to Cuomo's Erie Canal economic development initiative in upstate New York, which the report said "perfectly illustrates how all of HUD's tools and programs can work together on a large scale in a region desperately in need of an economic boost."
Ney said the report "may appear to some to be a flagrant political public relations document."
Last spring, another HUD report, "Losing Ground," was deemed by HUD's inspector general, a frequent Cuomo critic, to be an illegal lobbying tool. However, the General Accounting Office, Congress' nonpartisan investigative arm, reviewed the document and found no violation.
HUD mailed 2,158 copies of the report to interest groups and officials.