Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson is under scrutiny for his son’s involvement with official government business, after reports and documents show that Carson was warned by HUD lawyers against involving his son but did so anyway.
What's the problem?
Ben Carson Jr. is a local businessman in Maryland, who has taken an active role in HUD activities since his father became secretary.
Carson Jr. has participated in HUD meetings, coordinated with outside entities on behalf of the agency, and organized HUD events, despite not being employed by HUD in any way.
These activities give the appearance that Secretary Carson could be violating ethics rules by using his position to benefit his son’s business interests.
Linda Cruciani, the deputy general counsel for HUD, wrote in a July memo that she had “expressed my concern that this gave the appearance that the Secretary may be using his position for his son’s private gain.”
The concern is that Carson Jr. is acting on behalf of HUD with companies he currently, or could potentially, have business relationships with.
What was the conflict in the Baltimore listening tour?
Possibly the biggest potential conflict of interest stems from Carson Jr.’s involvement in a listening tour his father was taking in Baltimore in June.
Carson Jr. was active in inviting local businesspeople and community leaders to the event and attended a closed-door meeting on housing policy along, with his wife and his father’s wife.
Cruciani specifically warned Carson against including his son in the event, citing the appearance of an ethics conflict, but Carson said it would be difficult to have the Baltimore tour without Carson Jr.’s involvement, due to his son’s role as the chairman of a large private equity firm that employs about 2,600 employees.
How did he gain Cabinet-level access?
Carson’s wife, Candy, reportedly arranged for Carson Jr. to meet with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, which Chao’s chief of staff indicated could be set up if they chose to pursue it.
Carson Jr.’s apparent access to high-level officials, facilitated by his mother based on Carson’s position as HUD secretary lends more credence to the growing concern that Carson Jr. is benefitting personally from his father’s position.
Why did Secretary Carson call for an investigation?
Carson, apparently unsure that these actions constitute an ethics violation, called for the HUD inspector general to investigate.
He released the following statement:
My goal in Baltimore was to listen and help the people of Baltimore have access to safe affordable housing. 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. From my very first day at HUD I have insisted that HUD operate in an open and ethical manner in every way. To clear up any suspicion I am calling for the HUD Inspector General to review this matter.”