Almost three weeks after Dr. Ben Carson suspended his presidential campaign, one super PAC is still using his name to solicit donations from a pool of his supporters that includes a disproportionately high number of retirees.
As previously reported by The Daily Caller, the super PAC’s operatives have pocketed millions in donations, spending comparatively little on actual campaign activities.
Headed by John Phillip Sousa IV, The 2016 Committee is a super PAC like none other. For starters, Carson business manager Armstrong Williams said in December 2014 that the organization has “Absolutely no relation” to Dr. Carson. “People are using their hard-earned money,” he told Roll Call. “People giving money think it’s going to Dr. Carson and it’s not…We don’t want people exploited.”
In an interview that same month, Sousa admitted he hadn’t vetted Carson and had only met him once — “briefly.” But that hasn’t stopped him from claiming to be working “on behalf of Ben Carson” in mass fundraising emails.
Typically, super PACs are funded by a handful of ultra-wealthy donors as a way of bypassing campaign contribution limits. But Sousa’s super PAC targets a wide range of small-dollar donors through costly direct mail efforts and email blasts. Analysis of FEC filings by TheDC reveals that almost half of the donors who have given more than $200 are retirees. (The FEC doesn’t require super PACs or campaigns to disclose the identity of donors who gave less than $200, so it’s impossible to know how many of the donors who gave less than $200 are retirees.)
A March 21 email blast from the super PAC warns Christians to “expect your rights to be dramatically circumscribed” if Hillary Clinton takes the White House. “The Republicans have no chance of victory unless they make big inroads into Black and Hispanic voters,” the email states. It later claims that “The future of our Republic” depends on making Carson Donald Trump’s VP nominee. The email concludes with a signature from Sousa and a request for a minimum donation of $20.16. “Whatever you send will be used carefully to put Ben Carson on the Republican presidential ticket in 2016,” Sousa promises.
But a look at how the super PAC has used tens of millions of dollars in donations over the last two years casts serious doubt on that promise.As reported by TheDC last month, the super PAC has a habit of paying its operatives twice — once as employees and again as outside consultants. In the last six months of 2015 alone, the super PAC spent $930,000 on “salaries and consultant fees.” (The super PAC lists nine employees on its website.) Politico noted back in January that the super PAC bought 450,000 copies of Sousa’s own book, which can be found on Amazon for one cent. The super PAC shelled out $277,000 for the books. That’s more than it spent on TV and digital advertisements in all of 2015.
If Carson does end up on the GOP ticket, look for The 2016 Committee to continue using his name to solicit donations from his supporters. Even if he doesn’t get the VP nod, there’s no sign that Sousa will cut short his operation. In a fundraising email just this week, he predicted “a very busy year for The 2016 Committee.”
By press time, the super PAC hadn’t returned an email seeking comment.