Ben Carson wasn’t especially interested in becoming a cabinet secretary, but Donald Trump nevertheless asked the retired neurosurgeon to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The fact that Carson knew effectively nothing about housing policy or HUD’s work was apparently unimportant.
But as the Washington Post reported, Carson is now facing a very different kind of controversy.
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson allowed his son to help organize an agency “listening tour” in Baltimore last summer despite warnings from department lawyers that doing so risked violating federal ethics rules, according to internal documents and people familiar with the matter.
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.
Carson Jr. put people he’d invited in touch with his father’s deputies, joined agency staff on official conference calls about the listening tour and copied his wife on related email exchanges, according to emails.
It’s almost a cartoonish example of a conflict of interest. Under normal political conditions, it’s a story that might very well force his resignation.
And before the administration’s allies make the case that Carson, who had as much experience as Donald Trump in public office – which is to say, none – was unaware of potential ethical problems, let’s also note that there’s been discussion for months about the HUD secretary blurring the lines between his agency and his family members.
Indeed, Carson was warned – in person and in writing – by HUD officials about his dubious involvement of his family members.
But the cabinet secretary nevertheless went ahead with events that appear to have materially benefited members of his family, and may have even been designed to materially benefit members of his family.
Let’s also not forget that during his 2016 presidential campaign, Carson faced months of allegations that his entire political operation resembled some kind of fundraising scam. Carson himself conceded two years ago, for example, that even he wasn’t sure about the motivations of his finance team.
In other words, there’s an alarming track record when it comes to Carson, politics, and ethics. Maybe it’s time he update his resume?