Report: A third of Ben Carson’s appointees have no housing experience

Report: A third of Ben Carson’s appointees have no housing experience
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A third of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben CarsonBenjamin (Ben) Solomon CarsonOn The Money: House GOP struggles to get votes for B in wall funds | Fallout from Oval Office clash | Dems say shutdown would affect 800K workers | House passes 7 billion farm bill Trump signs order aimed at revitalizing economically distressed communities Dole salute embodies emotion of Bush farewell MORE’s appointees at the highest levels of the department have no experience with housing policy, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.

Twenty-four of the 70 people hired to the top positions at HUD under Carson apparently have no housing policy experience, according to the Post's analysis of their résumés and LinkedIn profiles.

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However, 16 of them appear to have worked on Carson’s or President TrumpDonald John TrumpActivists highlight Trump ties to foreign autocrats in hotel light display Jose Canseco pitches Trump for chief of staff: ‘Worried about you looking more like a Twinkie everyday’ Dershowitz: Mueller's report will contain 'sins' but no 'impeachable offense' MORE’s 2016 presidential campaigns or maintain close personal connections to their families, the Post reported.

In a statement to The Hill, Caroline Vanvick, a spokeswoman for HUD, wrote that the department's senior appointees "have well over 100 years of housing and mortgage policy experience combined."

Vanvick listed 10 officials who have a background in housing policy, including Deputy Secretary Pam Patenaude, who has led national housing initiatives. 

HUD spokesman Raffi Williams in a statement to the Post wrote that hiring people with "varying experiences to government is not unusual" and pointed out the majority of the top appointees do have housing experience.

HUD did not immediately respond to The Hill's requests for comment. 

The Post found that five of those appointees without housing experience received promotions and significant pay increases within their first months on the job. All of the five appointees now make between $98,000 and $155,000 per year and worked on either Carson's or Trump's presidential campaign.

American Oversight, a watchdog organization formed to scrutinize the Trump administration, obtained the documents cited in the Post's analysis through the Freedom of Information Act. 

American Oversight's executive director, Austin Evers, told The Hill that he believes the information poses "questions about the merit" of the raises for inexperienced appointees.  

"My personal view is that public servants deserve to be paid for their work and that spending on staff is not inherently scandalous," Evers told The Hill. "However, I think that pay should reflect merit. The decision to give pay raises to political appointees who lack experience should be weighed against efforts to slash the overall agency budget and should be based on the performance of those staff in their job."

Agency staffers told the Post that inexperienced appointees at the top levels have created dysfunctional policies. 

Ben Hobbs, a special policy adviser in HUD's Office of Public and Indian Housing, was behind a proposal that would have tripled the minimum rent paid by families, four people familiar with internal discussions told the Post.

Hobbs, who has has no background in housing policy, previously worked at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank,  and at the libertarian Charles Koch Institute, the Post reported. 

“As an ideologue, he wanted to institute his grandiose concept,” a former HUD official told the Post. “This policy was dead on arrival because it was rolled out poorly.”

Carson ultimately recanted on the proposal.

At least seven of the 66 top political appointees under the Obama administration lacked housing experience, according to the Post's analysis, amounting to 11 percent. 

"The most significant finding in these documents is that the concerns at the heart of Ben Carson’s nomination for this job have won out," Evers told The Hill. 

Carson, a retired pediatric neurosurgeon, had no housing policy background when he accepted the job at HUD.

"What’s striking is that someone with that background or lack of background proceeded to hire an unprecedented number of people who also lack policy expertise," Evers said. "So while it is common in Washington DC for a new administration to hire political appointees from campaigns into the government, it is unprecedented for a secretary with as little subject matter knowledge as Secretary Carson to rely so heavily on people who have no idea what they’re doing." 

HUD in statements to the Post said the agency's senior team has a "deep well of experience in housing, community development and mortgage finance." 

"The Secretary is not the first, and will not be the last, HUD Secretary to not have previous housing experience," Vanvick wrote in the statement to The Hill, citing former HUD Secretary Steve Preston, who served under former President George W. Bush. Preston oversaw the Small Business Administration before accepting the position at HUD. 

Updated at 3:20 p.m.