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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Carson Chaos

Ben Carson's political network is a mess. Robert Costa and Philip Rucker write at The Washington Post:
In interviews Friday, Carson’s associates described a political network in tumult, saying the retired neurosurgeon’s campaign chairman, national finance chairman, deputy campaign manager and general counsel have resigned since Carson formally launched his bid last month in Detroit. They have not been replaced, campaign aides said.
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Two independent super PACs designed to help Carson are instead competing directly with Carson’s campaign for donations and volunteers, while campaign chairman Terry Giles resigned last month with the intention of forming a third super PAC.
Giles said he intends to try to convince the other two super PACs, called Run Ben Run and One Vote, to cease operations so that all outside efforts can be coordinated through the new group. But with Carson’s brand a galvanizing force on the right, there are potentially millions of dollars to be raised off his name, and the other super PACs are said to be reluctant to shut down.
“They are going after the same small donors, and we’ve simply got to figure this out or else we are going up against each other the whole time,” Giles said. “I’m planning to sit down with them and explain that.”
Before the exodus, Carson’s campaign was mostly controlled by Giles and conservative commentator Armstrong Williams, who for decades has been Carson’s business manager and gatekeeper. Giles’s exit to the super PAC side, where he will be prohibited from directly coordinating with Carson or his campaign, leaves Williams as the candidate’s chief confidant.
Jason Zengerle writes at GQ:
When Williams is described as Carson's "business manager," it sounds like a euphemism, but it's literally true. The two became friendly about 22 years ago, after Carson appeared on Williams's television show. Soon Williams says that he realized his friend's business could be managed better. As Williams tells it, Carson "was looking to sell some property and minimize his taxes, so I turned him onto the 1031 exchanges"—a financial strategy that's used to shield investors from capital gains taxes. Before long, Williams wasn't handling just Carson's business affairs, he was employing Carson's sons through his production company and helping Carson's wife, Candy, import 300 pounds of Egyptian marble for the renovation of the Carson family home. When Carson turned his attentions toward politics, it was only natural that he'd turn to Williams for assistance.
Williams has proven to be an able Sherpa. Although Carson is a legitimate grassroots phenomenon, Williams hasn't been shy about spreading the fertilizer for the man he calls "Doc." Through his television stations, which Williams purchased from Sinclair Broadcasting, he's provided Carson with a regular platform on 150 or so other Sinclair stations. While those appearances aren't as prominent as Carson's work for Fox News (where Carson was, until late last year, a paid contributor), they allow him to often reach more viewers. Williams has also plugged Carson into the mainstream media. Last Friday, after Carson committed a number of foreign policy gaffes during a radio appearance, Williams roused Bloomberg Politics reporter David Weigel at 7:45 in the morning to offer up an interview with Carson so that Carson could try to clean up the mess. Above all else, Williams is an excellent hype man, constantly talking up Carson to reporters ("This guy is a voracious reader," he told me) and even suggesting lines of inquiry. "Be sure to ask Dr. Carson about Kanye West," Williams instructed me. It turns out Carson and the rapper spoke on the phone last year. "He wanted to talk to me and tell me he admired me," Carson told me. "I was quite impressed with his intelligence."
Carson has been fond of using the same fake Tocqueville quotation that Williams has also used -- so one can make a pretty good guess about who is ghostwriting for him.