As if Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson wasn’t already struggling enough, things got worse for the brain-surgeon-turned-politician a few weeks ago. The New York Times reported Carson’s agency spent more than $31,000 on furniture for the cabinet secretary, despite a law that requires congressional approval for furniture costing more than $5,000.
A HUD spokesperson said at the time that Carson “didn’t know the table had been purchased,” a point amplified by the secretary himself in a Facebook post. “I was as surprised as anyone to find out that a $31,000 dining set had been ordered,” he wrote.
As Politico reported this week, there’s new reason for skepticism about the official Carson line.
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson was involved in selecting a $31,000 dining table set for his office suite, emails show, despite Carson and HUD’s statements that he had no knowledge of the costly request.
A cache of emails obtained by the advocacy group American Oversight show a HUD employee referring to “print outs of the furniture Secretary and Mrs. Carson picked out” on Aug. 29, 2017.
The emails, for what it’s worth, came by way of a Freedom of Information Act request (as opposed to a leak from agency staffers who don’t like Carson).
At a briefing yesterday, a reporter asked White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders about whether Carson misused public funds. The president’s spokesperson said, “Look, this is something we’re looking into.”
Or put another way, this isn’t just some quirky story about a cabinet secretary and office redecoration. This, on the heels of Carson’s other controversies, including an ethics mess that’s already under investigation, may prove to be a career-ender.
Postscript: Just in case Carson’s mess didn’t already point to trouble at HUD, The Guardian reported yesterday that another official at the cabinet agency, Naved Jafry, resigned after the magazine “asked him to explain multiple allegations of fraud as well as exaggerations in his biography.”