Dr. Ben Carson's business manager urged conservative donors looking to give money to the 63-year-old neurosurgeon's potential 2016 presidential campaign to be wary of donating to the widely-publicized unaffiliated super PAC called the National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee.
Although the the Draft Ben Carson for President Committee has raised an outstanding sum, totalling over $10.7 million since July of 2013, Carson's long-time friend and business manager, Armstrong Williams, recently told Roll Call that, the group is a "mixed bag" and implied that the group has "exploited" people who think their donations are going directly to Carson.
"People are using their hard-earned money. People giving money and thinking it is going to Dr. Carson but it's not," Williams said. "I don't like misleading people. We are about integrity and transparency."
Carson's official USAFirstPac, which first filed with the Federal Election Commission this August, is the only political action committee authorized to directly support Carson. Although National Draft Ben Carson Committee is a super PAC and is permitted to raise as much money as is possible, FEC regulation prevents super PACs from making contributions to candidates' campaigns or political parties.
Williams, whose production company produced the hour-long documentary introducing Carson that aired on television in 22 states and the District of Columbia during the second weekend in November, feels it is important for prospective donors to understand that the National Draft Ben Carson Committee really has "absolutely no relation," to Carson and his official campaign efforts.
"Most people are innocent and well-intentioned but don't ask the right questions. Ask [Draft Carson organizers] if the money goes to Dr. Carson and they say 'no,'" Armstrong said. " Our hands are tied. We don't want people exploited."
The National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee was founded by the group's chairman, John Philip Sousa, IV, and the group's campaign director, Vernon Robinson, who Roll Coll claims has a reputation of being one of the most "aggressive and negative campaigners around," having run for a North Carolina Congress seat three times in the last 10 years.
"We have never met with [Robinson]," Williams said. "When he showed up at a function to take a picture with Dr. Carson, I blocked it."
The Draft Carson Committee is beginning to establish grassroots campaign efforts in early primary states. The group has named campaign chairman in all 99 Iowa counties, and in mid-November the super PAC signed a lease on office space in New Hampshire. The group also plans to do the same in other early primary states like North Carolina and South Carolina.
Despite Draft Carson Committee's large grassroots efforts, Sousa said in a recent interview with Buzzfeed that he has never collaborated with Williams. But that probably has more to do with FEC regulations that prevent super PACs from collaborating with official campaigns.
Carson still has yet to officially announce his candidacy. Carson has long said that he wanted to wait and see the outcome of the 2014 midterm elections before he decides whether or not to run. Now that Republicans have taken control of the House and the Senate, Carson plans to make some kind of announcement about his candidacy by May of 2015.