Ben Carson Draft Effort Spends $9 Million … To Raise $12 Million

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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Eyebrows are being raised as financial disclosure forms show that the “National Draft Ben Carson For President Committee” is spending most of its contributions … on raising money.

The PAC — which is not affiliated with Carson himself — has raised more than $12 million since July 2013. The group says it is working to convince Carson, the former director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, to run for president in 2016.

But an analysis by The Daily Caller of documents filed with the Federal Election Commission indicates that the draft effort has spent more than $9 million of the $12 million raised on a variety of fundraising expenses.

Despite the large amount of money spent on fundraising, Carson’s top political aide, who does not have any relationship with the PAC, said he is comfortable with what he knows about the organization’s activities.

“I can’t say for certain what their books might reflect,” Carson adviser Terry Giles told The Daily Caller on Thursday. “But I can tell you this: I’m sure appreciative of them approaching people and gathering supporters for Ben.”

PACs are barred from coordinating with candidates. But Giles said the PAC’s building of a fundraising list could really help Carson out down the road.

“As I understand it, most of the money they have spent is to build a list of potential supporters of Ben, and donors to his campaign, that will become very valuable to us at some point,” Giles said.

The organizers of the draft effort, who did not immediately return a request for comment from TheDC on Thursday, have opened offices in Johnston, Iowa and Manchester, New Hampshire. They also boast of having recruited 136 pro-Carson chairmen in all 99 counties in Iowa, something that could be of real help to Carson if he runs.

“This group is sincere, I think, in its efforts to want to get Ben to run for president,” Giles added. And if what they’re doing is gaining supporters and the names and addresses and emails of those supporters, for use in our campaign, when Ben actually announces, then that’s very very helpful.”

But whether that turns out to be true or not, one thing is: some direct mail and fundraising businesses are making a lot of money off the draft effort.

The organization spent millions with fundraising and direct mail firms, including $1.7 million at Campaign Funding Direct; $1.6 million with MDI Imaging; $1.3 million with Omega List; and $886,386 with DirectMail.com.

Others who the committee spent money on for fundraising: Westland Printers ($546,303); ECG Data ($227,640); Sisk Fulfillment Services ($177,822); Colortree Group Inc. ($171,417); CP Direct ($169,063); International Data Management ($134,519); Zip Mailing Services ($101,450); Washington Intelligence Bureau ($94,195); D&D Unlimited ($83,480); and Adzig ($75,197).

It also spent ($254,964) with Harper Collins — presumably to buy Carson’s books to give to donors — and $99,919 with the U.S. Postal Service.

Between July 2013 and November 2014, the Ben Carson Draft Committee, registered in Vienna Va., raised $12.2 million. It reports having $233,893 cash on hand.

According to the filings, most of the money — 93.7 percent, or $11,265,309 — went to operating expenses like fundraising. A mere 4.4 percent, or $531,788, was spent on independent expenditures, including radio ads in the North Carolina and Louisiana Senate races. The PAC also made a few small donations to committees, like a $250 contribution to the Polk County GOP in Iowa and $1,000 to the Republican Party of Virginia.

Last year, Vernon Robinson, one of the founders of the draft effort, told The Daily Caller that the PAC is essentially run off of his laptop, “wherever that happens to be.” The group started collecting petitions asking Carson to run.

In order to not violate coordination rules, Robinson said: “We don’t interact with Dr. Carson. All we do is send him those petitions.”

For now, it looks like Carson may make the the draft effort happy, as it appears increasingly clear the neurosurgeon will enter the presidential race.

Carson has never run for office before, and his potential presidential bid is seen as a long-shot. But he has become a favorite of the conservative base, routinely placing at the top of presidential preference polls.

Giles, his longtime friend and adviser, told TheDC on Thursday: “I fully expect in three or four weeks to announce our exploratory committee.”

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Alex Pappas