The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) controls a budget of more than $40 billion, and its policies directly impact millions of Americans and our communities. While other cabinet agencies have been in the spotlight for reversing or altering policies from the previous administration, HUD has received comparatively little attention. As the New York Times and ProPublica reported, the public has been kept largely in the dark when it comes to what’s happening at the agency.
In February 2018, emails we obtained from HUD revealed that Secretary Ben Carson was allowing his family members to exercise influence over certain department operations. The records, from 2017, showed his son, Ben Carson Jr., connecting business associates with senior HUD officials, and a deeper dive by CNN found that senior employees were also scheduling meetings for Carson Jr. The Washington Post found that Secretary Carson continued to involve his family in department business despite receiving legal advice that this could raise ethics concerns.
We’re seeking answers as to what role Carson’s family members are taking in government business, particularly the ways in which Ben Carson Jr. and his wife Merlynn may have used Secretary Carson’s position to bolster their own companies and business interests. Merlynn Carson was even awarded a nearly half-million-dollar contract from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
When Ben Carson came under fire for purchasing a $31,000 table, he first claimed that he didn’t know anything about it. He then blamed his wife, saying she picked out the table. But emails we obtained showed that the secretary actually knew more about the table purchase then he had publicly let on.
We’re also investigating Carson’s relationship with Sinclair Broadcast Group and conservative media personality Armstrong Williams. Williams, who is not a HUD employee, has business ties to Sinclair and made an official statement on behalf of HUD following the initial reports about Carson’s dining set.
If Secretary Carson is using his position to provide special access to his family or to steer departmental resources to other well-connected interests, the public has a right to know.