Ben Carson’s Family Involvement at the Department of Housing and Urban Development

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson has allowed his family members to be involved in, and benefit from, his position at the department. In particular, Carson’s son Ben Carson Jr. and his daughter-in-law Merlynn Carson appear to have an unusual amount of influence on official government business. Emails uncovered by American Oversight and analyzed by news outlets reveal that both Carson Jr. and Merlynn Carson have attempted to use their influence at HUD to advance their own private interests. American Oversight has filed a lawsuit to learn more about Secretary Carson’s leadership and potential conflicts of interest in the department.

BACKGROUND

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 and access at the department, particularly his son Ben Carson Jr., who was connecting his personal business associates to senior HUD officials. CNN did a deeper dive into the records and found that senior employees were also scheduling meetings with and on behalf of Carson Jr., and 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 have used Secretary Carson’s position to bolster their own companies and business interests. Merlynn Carson was even awarded a 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.

Updates

News Roundup: Georgia’s Disastrous Election, the Administration’s Alarming Protest Response, and Barr’s Troubling Tenure

June 12, 2020
As stirring protests against police brutality gripped the nation’s attention and as the coronavirus continued its tragic spread through multiple states, Georgia held a chaotic primary election.

Documents Reveal Ben Carson Jr.’s Attempts to Use His Influence at HUD to Help His Business

March 4, 2019
Records obtained by American Oversight raise serious concerns about the influence Ben Carson's son has on HUD operations — and about whether the department has taken action to benefit his private business interests.

Emails Show Political Interference with FOIA and Resistance to Transparency at HUD

August 14, 2018
Documents obtained by American Oversight show that Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) officials circumvented standard Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) policies to deal with politically-sensitive requests related to the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and complained about inquiries from members of Congress.
Show all updates

Related Documents

June 5, 2020

Public Information Request to the Baltimore, Maryland, Mayor’s Office for Dr. Merlynn Carson Communications

Maryland - Baltimore Mayor's Office
FOIA Request
June 5, 2020

Public Records Request to the Miami, Florida, Mayor’s Office for Dr. Merlynn Carson Communications

FOIA Request
August 23, 2019

No Records Response from HUD Regarding Communications Between Carson Family and Other Appointees

Department of Housing and Urban Development
Agency Reply
May 29, 2019

HUD Secretary Carson Office Renovation Expense Records

Department of Housing and Urban Development
Agency Record
March 18, 2019

HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s 2017 Calendar

Department of Housing and Urban Development
Agency Record
January 17, 2019

FOIA to HHS Seeking Communications Regarding Merlynn Carson Contract

Department of Health and Human Services
FOIA Request
December 18, 2018

HUD Records Related to Senior Advisor’s Promotion

Department of Housing and Urban Development
Agency Record
October 31, 2018

HUD Communications Between Certain Employees and White House Employees

Department of Housing and Urban Development
Agency Record
October 22, 2018

No Records Response From HUD Regarding Communications With Armstrong Williams and Sinclair Media

Department of Housing and Urban Development
Agency Reply
September 24, 2018

FOIA to HUD Seeking Communications with Focus on the Family

Department of Housing and Urban Development
FOIA Request
September 24, 2018

HUD Communications Regarding Candy Carson Travel and Other Agency Resources

Department of Housing and Urban Development
Agency Record
September 20, 2018

HUD Emails with Sinclair Broadcasting

Department of Housing and Urban Development
Agency Record
August 28, 2018

No Records Response to FOIA To Philadelphia School District Seeking Communications with HUD

Pennsylvania School District
Agency Reply
August 17, 2018

Baltimore City Records of Communications with Ben Carson’s Family Members

Maryland - Baltimore City Housing and Community Development, Maryland - Baltimore Mayor's Office
Agency Record
August 13, 2018

Philadelphia Housing Authority Communications with HUD Staff

Pennsylvania - Philadelphia Housing Authority
Agency Record
July 17, 2018

FOIA To Philadelphia School District Seeking Communications with HUD

Pennsylvania School District
FOIA Request
July 17, 2018

FOIA to Philadelphia Mayor’s Office Seeking Communications with HUD

Pennsylvania - Philadelphia Mayor's Office
FOIA Request
July 17, 2018

FOIA to Philadelphia Housing Authority Seeking Communications with HUD

Pennsylvania - Philadelphia Housing Authority
FOIA Request
July 17, 2018

FOIA to New York City Housing Authority Seeking Communications with HUD

New York City Housing Authority
FOIA Request
July 17, 2018

FOIA to HUD Seeking Communications Between HUD and Various Outside Entities

Department of Housing and Urban Development
FOIA Request
July 17, 2018

FOIA to the Baltimore Mayor’s Office Seeking Communications with HUD

Maryland - Baltimore Mayor's Office
FOIA Request
July 17, 2018

FOIA to Baltimore City Housing and Community Development Seeking Communications with HUD

Maryland - Baltimore City Housing and Community Development
FOIA Request
June 29, 2018

HUD Communications Between Particular Staffers

Department of Housing and Urban Development
Agency Record
May 1, 2018

HUD Personnel Records for Helen Foster and Maren Kasper 

Department of Housing and Urban Development
Agency Record
May 1, 2018

HUD Memo Regarding the Installation of a Security System of Carson’s Home

Department of Housing and Urban Development
Agency Record
April 9, 2018

FOIA to FCC Regarding Conservative Media Influence at the FCC and HUD

Federal Communications Commission
FOIA Request
April 9, 2018

FOIA to HUD Regarding Secretary Carson’s Connection to Sinclair Broadcast Group

Department of Housing and Urban Development
FOIA Request
April 9, 2018

Complaint: American Oversight v. HUD – Sinclair Broadcast Influence

Department of Housing and Urban Development
Litigation
April 2, 2018

FOIA to HUD Regarding Use of Public Funds

Department of Housing and Urban Development
FOIA Request
April 2, 2018

FOIA to HUD to Shed Light on Retaliation Against Employees

Department of Housing and Urban Development
FOIA Request
March 19, 2018

HUD Records of Carson Decision Memos

Department of Housing and Urban Development
Agency Record
March 6, 2018

Complaint: American Oversight v. HUD – Carson and Patton Communications

Department of Housing and Urban Development
Litigation
March 1, 2018

FOIA to HUD Seeking Communications with Sinclair Broadcasting

Department of Housing and Urban Development
FOIA Request
March 1, 2018

FOIA Seeking Communications Related to HUD’s Public Statements About Renovations

Department of Housing and Urban Development
FOIA Request
March 1, 2018

FOIA to HUD to Find Out What Outside Entities Are Influencing Agency Messaging

Department of Housing and Urban Development
FOIA Request
March 1, 2018

FOIA to HUD to Shed Light on Outside Influences

Department of Housing and Urban Development
FOIA Request
February 27, 2018

Complaint: American Oversight v. HUD: Office Renovations

Department of Housing and Urban Development
Litigation
February 27, 2018

FOIA to HUD for Communications Relating to Carson’s Office and Select Staff

Department of Housing and Urban Development
FOIA Request
February 27, 2018

FOIA to HUD for Kasper Communications Regarding Carson’s Office or Lynne Patton

Department of Housing and Urban Development
FOIA Request
February 27, 2018

FOIA to HUD for Foster and Kasper Files

Department of Housing and Urban Development
FOIA Request
February 27, 2018

FOIA to HUD for Office Renovation Memo

Department of Housing and Urban Development
FOIA Request
February 27, 2018

FOIA to HUD for Clemmensen and Foster Communications with Carson Family

Department of Housing and Urban Development
FOIA Request
February 27, 2018

FOIA to HUD Seeking Foster Communications Regarding Carson Office Redecoration and Other Matters

Department of Housing and Urban Development
FOIA Request
February 1, 2018

HUD Records Relating to Ben Carson Jr

Department of Housing and Urban Development
Agency Record
February 1, 2018

FOIA to HUD Regarding Merlynn Carson’s Influence

Department of Housing and Urban Development
FOIA Request
February 1, 2018

FOIA to HHS Regarding Merlynn Carson’s Contract with CMS

Department of Health and Human Services
FOIA Request
October 10, 2017

Complaint: American Oversight v. HUD – Carson, Carson Jr. and Trump III

Department of Housing and Urban Development
Litigation
September 27, 2017

No Records Response From HUD Regarding Candy Carson’s Travel

Department of Housing and Urban Development
Agency Reply
July 14, 2017

FOIA Request to HUD Regarding Processing of FOIA Requests

Department of Housing and Urban Development
FOIA Request
July 14, 2017

FOIA to HUD Regarding Travel by Lacena Carson

Department of Housing and Urban Development
FOIA Request