Most Americans may enjoy forgetting that Ben Carson is now officially the Secretary of something. Questions range from HOW, to why, to HOW. But — this is the the Trump administration. The fact that Pauly Shore hasn’t yet taken over for Sarah Huckabee Sanders reflects less on the aptitude of Sanders and more on the fact that Trump hasn’t yet met Pauly Shore.
Ben Carson is actually Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Yes, you may side-eye that appointment.
Mr. Carson enlisted his son to help organize a “listening tour” in Baltimore. Per The Washington Post, Carson had been warned by department lawyers last summer that doing so was to risk violating federal ethics rules. The same report indicates that “…career officials and political appointees raised concerns days before the visit that Carson’s son, local businessman Ben Carson Jr., and daughter-in-law were inviting people with whom they potentially had business dealings, the documents show.”
Ben Carson’s son put people he’d invited in touch with his father’s deputies. He also joined in with agency staff on official conference calls about the listening tour. He went so far as to copy his wife on related email exchanges.
The Washington Post was able to obtain, via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, a copy of a 2-page memo written by Linda M. Cruciani, HUD’s deputy general counsel for operations, in which she expresses her concerns. He memo reads, in part, “I expressed my concern that this gave the appearance that the Secretary may be using his position for his son’s private gain.” The memo also details conference calls and meetings that Linda Cruciani and others had with Carson, his son, and other senior HUD officials in effort to urge Ben Carson not to allow his son to be involved in the “listening tour.”
In addition to his son, Carson’s wife, Candy Carson, attended official meetings. So Ben Carson has involved his wife, his son, and his daughter-in-law in otherwise official HUD business.
Why does that go beyond weird and enter into a potential ethics violation?
Ben Carson Jr. is a large employer in the region, and chairman of Interprise Partners, which is a private equity firm that invests in and manages companies in the Mid-Atlantic.
In her memo, Ms. Cruciani wrote that two days before the listening tour was to begin, Carson initially said “it would be difficult” to have the tour in Baltimore without his son’s involvement because Carson Jr. is a large employer in the region. Cruciani maintains that, despite this, she and her colleagues came away from the meeting believing that Carson Jr would not be involved in the two-day tour. The possible exception being a community event about lead exposure.
As we now know, Ben Carson Jr was a fixture of that event.
But it doesn’t end there. Ben Carson (Senior) was asked to nix a number of guests from the event in question as several of them had a business relationship with family members. The invite list was not changed. Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, was in attendance… and about three months later, CMS awarded a $485,000 contract to the consulting company Myriddian.
Merlynn Carson is CEO of Myrriddian. Ben Carson Jr purports to beone of Myriddian’s board members.
Ben Carson is probably in a heap of trouble right now. That’s what happens to other people when they try to line their own pockets by following the Donald Trump Administrative Nepotism model or the Donald Trump Pay For Play model. Ben Carson had the audacity to intermingle both of those, without being Donald Trump.