‘Dr. Ben Carson, Inc.’ And The Conservative Circle Of Scam


It was a good scheme while it lasted, but now that the suckers are played out, token brain surgeon Dr. Ben Carson is moving on. After a disappointing performance in last Tuesday’s primary balloting, the Carson campaign first suspended, then ended its operations.

His bizarre statements, and questions about the veracity of his biography, had failed to deter conservative voters. Yet by the end of 2015 his campaign was in turmoil. Soft-spoken to the point of being inaudible, weak on foreign policy, and unable to ratchet up his rhetoric when the Paris terror attacks or the San Bernardino shootings took place, Carson eventually lost the interest of angry white evangelicals.

The vultures began to gather after Christmas, when staffers who actually wanted to elect Ben Carson resigned en masse, focusing attention on the profiteers of his inner circle.

‘”We had people who didn’t really seem to understand finances,” a laughing Carson told CNN’s Poppy Harlow on “CNN Newsroom,” adding, “or maybe they did — maybe they were doing it on purpose.”‘

Detractors had said for months that Carson’s campaign was built for making money rather than winning elections. As Jonathan Chait wrote in November,

‘Conservative politics are so closely intermingled with a lucrative entertainment complex that it is frequently impossible to distinguish between a political project (that is, something designed to result in policy change) and a money-making venture. Declaring yourself a presidential candidate gives you access to millions of dollars’ worth of free media attention that can build a valuable brand. So the mere fact that Carson calls himself a presidential candidate does not prove he is actually running for president rather than taking advantage of the opportunity to build his brand.’

Long before he ran for president, Carson sponsored various quack health products, even claiming they had cured him. When challenged on this point during a debate, Carson made the conservative audience cheer by denying his relationship to nutritional supplement company Mannatech. The moment demonstrated that conservative scams work so well because the marks want to be bamboozled.

While raising money from the right wing grassroots with promises to ‘take on Obama!’ or ‘stop the liberal agenda!,’ for example, consultants actually enrich themselves by spending on friendly, connected vendors and fellow consultants.

Super PACs ostensibly created to support Carson raised tens of millions of dollars, then spent it mostly on themselves. Carson’s closest adviser Armstrong Williams complained about the bait-and-switch, but only because he was unable to access the money for his own purposes.

Carson even raised more hard dollars than any other presidential campaign in either party, but rather than invest in staff or GOTV efforts, he spent much of it on building direct mail lists — a great way to make money later, but a terrible way to build electoral momentum now.

‘All told, the Carson campaign turned over at least one-quarter of the money it raised — $16 million — to fundraising and marketing firms owned by a pair of his top consultants, Mike Murray and Ken Dawson.’

‘By contrast, the Carson campaign’s payroll for nine months cost less than $700,000, finance documents show, and the campaign spent less than $600,000 on television and radio advertising during the month that voting has taken place…’

[…] ‘Murray has been a senior adviser to the campaign, owns TMA Direct and is managing partner of Precision Data Management, firms that provide fundraising services for direct mail and email to voters and broker lists of would-be supporters.’

There are few better examples of conservative politics as a ‘circle of scam‘ than Ben Carson. Mailing lists in hand, he’ll be back soon to fleece the suckers anew.

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