The Washington Times - April 21, 2009, 10:38AM

Mercedez Marquez, a woman President Obama has appointed to a prominent federal housing position, is being mocked by conservative bloggers for paying a Zen buddhist priest thousands of dollars from her post at the Los Angeles Housing Department.

Ms. Marquez was quoted by the Los Angeles Times in 2007 supporting paying Norma Wong $18,819 for “management training that includes teaching breathing with sphincter control, learning ‘how to stand’ and playing with wooden sticks.”

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Ms. Marquez was recently appointed to become Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development at the Department of Housing and Urban Development by President Obama.

Erick Erickson, founder of the conservative blog Redstate.com, was first to raise questions about the arrangement.

He also obtained a letter from a disgrunteld LA Housing department employee that said: “Mercedes hired Norma and after the training was paid for Mercedes became a Priestess. After the next training, Mercedes was elevanted to High Priestess. The whole purpose of the Zen training was to elevate Mercedes’ stature in the Buddhist Temple. After a half hour, the building management sent security guards out to the parking lot to stop the spectacle.”

“Hopefully the Senate Republicans will ask some very pointed questions to Ms. Marquez” during her confirmation hearing Erickson wrote on this blog.