Dr. Ben Carson is Trump’s pick to head up the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It was an interesting pick – a small government proponent and welfare critic chosen to head up a department like HUD. It would be like choosing Ron Paul to head up the Federal Reserve.
On the flip-side, it would be like Hillary Clinton being chosen to run the Office of Government Ethics or the Department of Justice.
It’ll be interesting to see how Ben Carson will be as HUD secretary, assuming he’s confirmed.
At Ben Carson’s confirmation hearing, he was questioned by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) about Trump’s conflicts of interest, particularly pertaining to how the President-elect and his family could potentially benefit from Carson being HUD secretary. From RCP:
“My concern is whether or not, among the billions of dollars that you’ll be responsible for handing out in grants and loans, can you assure us that not one dollar will go to benefit either the president-elect or his family,” Warren asked.
“It will not be my intention to do anything to benefit any American, particularly,” Carson responded. “It’s for all Americans, everything that we do.”
Do I take that to mean that you may manage programs that will significantly benefit the president-elect?” she responded.
“You can take it to mean that I will manage things in a way that benefits the American people. That is going to be the goal,” Carson said. “If there happens to be an extraordinarily good program that’s working for millions of people and it turns out that someone that you’re targeting is going to gain $10 from it, am I going to say ‘no, the rest of you Americans can’t have it?’ I think logic and common sense probably would be the best way.”
“This just highlights the absurdity and the danger of the president-elect’s refusal to put his assets in a true blind trust,” Warren replied. “He knows, the president-elect knows, what will benefit him and his family financially, but the public doesn’t. Which means he can divert taxpayer money into his own pockets without anyone knowing about it.”
According to ABC News, Trump does hold a 4% share of the Starrett City development project in Brooklyn. But even in their reporting of his interests it shows that Trump or his family gaining financially from HUD would be highly unlikely:
Trump’s financial disclosure report values his 4% share of the Starrett City development at between $5 million and $25 million, and Trump reported that it generated between $1 million and $5 million in income for him last year.
Of the 5,881 units in the Starrett City, HUD officials told ABC News that those living in 3,569 receive support from a HUD assistance program. The development also operates under a federal “Use Restriction” which requires it remain affordable, and prevents it from being converted into the kind of upscale residential properties that have blossomed in Brooklyn. That restriction is supposed to remain in place until the year 2039.
The property also benefits from a federal interest rate reduction on its debt through a HUD program that is scheduled to expire during the final year of Trump’s term.
A spokesman for the property’s ownership group, George Arzt, said any action that could benefit the ownership group would have to involve buy-in from New York officials, too – not just the Trump administration.
“Starrett City, like similar housing developments, has long been regulated by laws and procedures that have been put in place by two levels of government,” Artz said.