Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and his wife Candy Carson personally picked out a controversial $31,000 dining room set for his HUD dining room, new emails reveal.
The emails obtained by liberal watchdog group American Oversight reveal how Carson’s wife was personally involved in the purchase of the dining room set, a clear contradiction of HUD’s initial claim that the Carsons had no knowledge of the purchase.
A career HUD staffer reached out to Carson’s wife in an August email inviting her to “come in and have input on the redecorating” of Carson’s office. The staffer stressed that the new furniture must be ordered “before the 21st in order to use the money allocated for this fiscal year.”
A HUD staffer made reference to “print outs of the furniture the Secretary and Mrs. Carson picked out,” in another email sent later the same month. The quote for the furniture picked out by Carson and his wife totaled $24,666, according to the emails.
A HUD staffer noted in one email that the cost of the furniture shouldn’t be an issue because “the furniture hasn’t been changed since 1988.” However, by the time the furniture was ordered four months later, the final price of the furniture increased by $31,000, mostly due to delivery and installation charges.
HUD spokesman Raffi Williams initially claimed that the Carsons had no knowledge of the furniture purchase after CNN first reported the controversial dining room purchase in February.
“Mrs. Carson and the secretary had no awareness that the table was being purchased,” Williams told CNN.
“The secretary did not order a new table. The table was ordered by the career staffers in charge of the building,” he added.
Carson followed up with a statement a few days later in March claiming he was “surprised as anyone to find out that a $31,000 dining set had been ordered.” He acknowledged in his statement he had a $25,000 furniture budget, which matches the initial quote of $24,666 received in August, according to the emails.
“I made it known that I was not happy about the prices being charged and that my preference would be to find something more reasonable,” Carson said.
Carson said he requested the order be canceled after learning the final cost of the furniture had increased by almost $7,000.