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

Housing and Urban Development (HUD) 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 Ben 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.

What We’re Seeking:

  • Communications related to Ben Carson Jr. and his company, Interprise Partners, with a particular focus on the younger Carson’s role in coordinating an official Secretarial visit to Baltimore
  • Communications and records from Health and Human Services (HHS) and CMS regarding the half-million dollar contract with CMS awarded to Merlynn Carson’s company
  • HUD political appointee resumes, calendar entries, and visitor logs
  • Records related to Ben Carson Jr.’s presence at HUD and whether he has been meeting with senior officials to promote his own business interests
  • Decision memos and policies signed by Secretary Carson
  • Records to shed light on HUD’s FOIA processing policies and any political interference
  • Records related to HUD’s communications with conservative media personality Armstrong Williams and Sinclair Broadcast Group.

Background:

HUD controls a budget of over $40 billion and its policies directly impact millions of Americans and our communities. While many other cabinet agencies have been in the spotlight for reversing or altering policies from the previous administration, there has been comparatively little attention paid to HUD. The public has been kept largely in the dark when it comes to what’s happening at the agency, the New York Times and Propublica reported.

In February 2018, emails we obtained from HUD revealed that Secretary Carson was allowing his family members to have 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 record 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 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 a 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, then he blamed his wife, saying she picked out the table, and then finally, emails we obtained showed that Secretary Carson actually knew about the table purchase.

We’re also investigating Carson’s relationship with conservative media personality Armstrong Williams and Sinclair Broadcast Group. 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

Watchdog Sues HUD for Communications with Armstrong Williams and Sinclair Broadcast Group

April 9, 2018
American Oversight's lawsuit against the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to compel the release of records related to HUD's communications with conservative media personality Armstrong Williams and Sinclair Broadcast Group.

New Emails Show Secretary Carson Knew About $31,000 Table

March 14, 2018
New emails uncovered by American Oversight show that HUD Secretary Ben Carson and wife were actively involved in selection and purchase of a $31,000 dining set - contradicting previous claims by Carson and HUD officials that he had not been aware of the purchase until after the fact.

Ethics Watchdog Sues HUD for Emails from Carson Family, Lynne Patton, Trump Organization

March 6, 2018
Non-partisan ethics watchdog American Oversight filed a sweeping new lawsuit against the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today seeking emails and other documents from HUD Secretary Ben Carson, Carson's wife and son – both of whom have been active in department business – and senior political appointees including Lynne Patton. 
Show all updates

Related Documents

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 20, 2018

HUD Emails with Sinclair Broadcasting

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

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

Pennsylvania School District
Agency Reply
July 17, 2018

FOIA To Pennsylvania School District Seeking Communications with HUD

Pennsylvania School District
FOIA Request
July 17, 2018

FOIA to Philadelphia Mayor’s Office Seeking Communications with HUD

Philadelphia Mayor's Office
FOIA Request
July 17, 2018

FOIA to Philadelphia Housing Authority Seeking Communications with HUD

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

Baltimore Mayor's Office
FOIA Request
July 17, 2018

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

Baltimore City Housing and Community Development
FOIA Request
July 16, 2018

HUD Communications Regarding Candy Carson Travel and Other Agency Resources

Department of Housing and Urban Development
Agency Record
July 5, 2018

HUD Communications Between Certain Employees and White House Employees

Department of Housing and Urban Development
Agency Record
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 12, 2018

HUD Secretary Carson Office Renovation Expense Records

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