While much of last night’s GOP debate focused on whether Donald Trump’s phony college, Trump University, swindled its students, one of his fellow Republican presidential candidates built a campaign that closely resembled a money-making scheme rather than a serious political operation.
The Associated Press reports today that top members of Ben Carson’s team made huge sums from the neurosurgeon’s presidential bid:
The political newcomer who said this week he sees “no path” to the Republican nomination raised more money than any other GOP contender, $58 million since he began his bid last May.
But Carson’s campaign burned through much more of that money on fundraising and consultants than on mass media advertising, on-the-ground employees and other things that could have swayed voters, an Associated Press review of his campaign finance reports found.
Some people who worked with Carson’s presidential campaign are positioned to continue profiting from his elevated profile even after he officially ends his bid.
All told, the Carson campaign turned over at least one-quarter of the money it raised — $16 million — to fundraising and marketing firms owned by a pair of his top consultants, Mike Murray and Ken Dawson.
By contrast, the Carson campaign’s payroll for nine months cost less than $700,000, finance documents show, and the campaign spent less than $600,000 on television and radio advertising during the month that voting has taken place, according to advertising tracker Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group.
Carson plans to lay out his next moves in a speech Friday to the Conservative Political Action Conference in suburban Maryland. He has vowed to continue his “grassroots movement,” which includes his 700,000 campaign donors, the majority of whom gave $200 or less.
That could mean a return to the American Legacy Political Action Committee, a group that already has substantial crossover with the Carson campaign; in fact, Murray is its founder. Before beginning his presidential bid, Carson was the face of an American Legacy PAC project on health care.
Carson’s longtime confidant and off-the-books campaign guru, Armstrong Williams, took over Carson’s American Legacy PAC chairmanship and said he would encourage him to come back to the group, which he called a “natural” move.
“It gives him a platform,” Williams said. “Why start something new when you already have something in place?”
American Legacy PAC appears to do little more than raise money to pay people raising money. Despite its mission of helping conservative candidates, the group reported giving less than 3 percent of the $10 million it raised in the past five years to political candidates and political committees, a review of Federal Election Commission reports shows.
Williams, Murray and Dawson weren’t the only people involved.
Ben Carson’s national finance chairman, Dean Parker, Gakwer notes, “was essentially raising money to pay himself and his staff, who would then raise more money to pay themselves.”
Politico points out that Parker’s subordinates also did quite well for themselves despite having little political experience:
Nearly everyone on his staff set up a separate LLC after joining the campaign and received consulting payments in the quarter that ended Oct. 1. LLCs like Interim C, DB Operations, and Synergy Networks were established explicitly for the campaign and trace back to individuals who were paid as finance consultants.
Mary Broughton, who lists her occupation as a substitute teacher and graduated from Liberty University in 2014, collected nearly $15,000, through MC Consulting, established in June. Rachel Howat, who was a Mobile County nutritionist until joining the campaign in June as “finance operations director,” collected more than $15,200 through The Amna Agency. A further $8,000 flowed in September to Interim C, a Michigan-based LLC whose manager, Kevin Demery, used to work with Parker at Callis Communications. Demery lists his title as the campaign’s national vice chairman of finance.
Running for president wasn’t Carson’s first venture into the world of grifting, as he once was paid to promote a nutritional company notorious for its deceptive marketing practices and quack treatments.
Before dropping out, Carson even joked about how his own operatives were using the campaign as a personal piggy bank, quite a turn for someone whose campaign centered on the claim that his personal piety and integrity would make him a great president.