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HUD nominee Carson details steps to untangle business ties

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development has disclosed detailed steps to distance himself from business holdings and charities to avoid potential conflicts of interests.

Ben Carson filed an ethics agreement with the Office of Government Ethics pledging to resign from the board of the Carson Scholars Fund and other charities if he is confirmed by the Senate. The fund established by the retired neurosurgeon provides $1,000 scholarships to schoolchildren.

A multimillionaire, Carson said he will turn over control of his assets to a manager. He said he will resign as a managing member of his companies BenCan LLC and American Business Collaborative LLC, though he will continue to hold an ownership stake and receive revenue from them. BenCan’s holdings include commercial real estate properties in suburban Pittsburgh.

Carson will also continue to receive royalties from a number of publishing companies for books that include his autobiography, “Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story.”

As a Cabinet secretary, Carson would be subject to a raft of federal conflict-of-interest provisions intended to prohibit him, his spouse or business partners from profiting from his position. A former Republican presidential candidate, Carson is nominated to lead a sprawling agency with 8,300 employees and a budget of $47 billion.

Though he is not divesting from his businesses, ethics watchdogs said that shouldn’t be a problem as long as Carson or his partners don’t try to seek government contracts or other business.

“Carson is not required to divest if he holds no assets which conflict with HUD business,” said Jordan Libowitz, spokesman for the advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “Compared to other Trump appointees, his assets are fairly straightforward: mutual funds, book royalties, rental properties and the like. As long as a HUD review finds no conflicting assets, what he is doing meets with the law.”

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Follow Associated Press reporter Michael Biesecker at Twitter.com/mbieseck

Copyright © 2017 The Washington Times, LLC.

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