4 February 2018 | Accusations about Ben Carson Jr.’s involvement in a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) listening tour have prompted his father, HUD secretary Ben Carson, to call for an investigation.
News analysis site Vox reports that the brewing scandal stems from reports that Carson Jr. was invited to be part of the tour despite a warning by Linda Cruciani, HUD’s deputy general counsel for operations, that his involvement may give the appearance that “the Secretary may be using his position for his son’s private gain.” The tour was supposed to provide Carson with information about housing projects supported by the federal government as well as give him a chance to talk about his policies.
On Saturday, February 3, Carson, an Adventist former neurosurgeon took to Twitter saying: “This week, my family and I have been under attack by the media questioning our integrity and ethics. I have openly asked for an Independent Investigation to put to rest these unfounded biases. Exodus 14:14”
The scripture he referenced reads “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (NIV)
The Washington Post reported last week that Carson’s son and his daughter-in-law, Merlynn Carson, had made multiple requests for people to be invited to the listening tour. According to a July memo by Cruciani, Carson Jr. and his wife asked for more than six people to be invited to Carson’s Baltimore tour. On this list of requested invitees were high profile business executives such as Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank and Genesis Rehab Services co-chief operating officer Dan Hirschfield.
Carson Jr. is chairman and co-founder of a Maryland-based private equity firm called Interprise Partners. In addition, he chairs the construction and engineering services company Argo Systems. His wife, Merlynn, is CEO of consulting company Myriddian LLC.
One of the invitees was Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The Washington Post reports that, less than three months after the invitation, CMS awarded Myriddian a $485,000 contract. CMS neglected to go through a competitive bidding process in awarding the contract.
Defending his involvement, Carson Jr. said that his father had asked him to help with the Baltimore listening tour and that he had merely invited people “who work with us, but [who] advance HUD initiatives.” He also claimed that he had three law firms and 2,600 employees and was regularly audited. “HUD can’t operate in Baltimore without touching on us,” said Carson Jr.
Secretary Carson defended his son’s involvement in the tour by saying that Carson Jr. was the largest employer in Maryland (a claim Vox reported is false.) Vox also explains that “executive branch officials aren’t supposed to use their offices to advance private or commercial interests, and anti-nepotism laws bar officials from employing or promoting the interests of their relatives.”
Carson senior has asked the HUD’s inspector general to investigate his listening tour. He also released a statement on February 1 saying, “In my role as HUD secretary, I try to be as inclusive as possible and talk with a wide variety of people because when it comes to increasing access to affordable housing, no rock should remain unturned.”
Carson launched an unsuccessful bid for the United States presidency, running as a Republican candidate in 2016.