Emails Show Ben Carson, Wife Chose $31K Dining Set

Ben Carson

Ben Carson

Ben Carson and his wife personally selected a $31,000 furniture set for his office at the department of housing and urban development, according to a newly released email that contradicts past statements by Carson and his aides.

The 163-page release, obtained by the left-leaning group American Oversight, includes a series of email exchanges over the course of past year in which top HUD staffers vet different furniture options and solicit input from Carson's wife Candy, as well as the secretary.

That flies in the face of a statement made a month ago by HUD spokesman Raffi Williams, who said as the controversy simmered that "Mrs. Carson and the secretary had no awareness that the table was being purchased". Career staff eventually suggested a new dining room set, which Carson didn't really want.

"We also have a justification for the cost (as you know, the furniture hasn't been changed since 1988) so this should not be a problem", she added.

In August, around the time the dining room set was ordered, he asked his staff if he could use any of his furniture allowance to commission a portrait for HUD secretaries not included in the phalanx of oil paintings in the corridor outside his office.

At least one of Ben Carson's predecessors - Shaun Donovan, who served under President Barack Obama - abandoned the idea of replacing the furniture when told it would exceed the statutory price limit, according to two former agency officials.

"I don't think it even crossed her mind, this separate room", he said.

"Secretary Carson, to our knowledge, is the only HUD Secretary to go to the subbasement of his agency to select the furniture for his office", Williams said.

"I briefly looked at catalogs for dining furniture and was shocked by the cost of the furniture".

HUD chief of staff Sheila Greenwood sent an email February 20, 2017, in which she suggested showing Candy Carson some furniture choices during a planned visit the following day.

Earlier, he claimed that department staff had gone to considerable length to save taxpayers money in refurbishing the office, in part by bringing up furniture from HUD's basement.

The furniture hunt did not end in February, however: an aging conference table and its accompanying chairs used for Carson's private lunches with guests proved so problematic that his deputies made a decision to order a replacement at the cost of $31,561.

In August, the department's administrative officer, Aida Rodriguez, wrote to other department officials that a $24,666 quote for the dining-room table, chairs and hutch was "a very reasonable price, and the funds are available".

Revelations of the inconsistencies come just weeks after Secretary Carson used a biblical reference - Psalms 91 - in his defense: "Under his wings you will find refuge".

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