A super PAC that aims to persuade famed neurosurgeon and conservative political activist Dr. Ben Carson to run for president has raised more than $7.2 million since its formation last year, according to documents the group filed with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday.
While much of the funds spent by the National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee have been used to build a contact list, for direct-mail fundraising and to buy ad space, there’s one expense that stands out: book purchases.
Over the course of 2014, the group spent about $150,000 buying two of Carson’s most recent books, "America the Beautiful" and "One Nation," which it offers to supporters as gifts to encourage donations, committee co-founder Vernon Robinson told Yahoo News.
Between February and April, the committee paid $105,761.78 to HarperCollins, the publisher of Carson’s 2013 book "America the Beautiful." In May and June, the group spent another $44,453.35 on Carson’s more recently published book at Joseph Fox Bookshop in Philadelphia, FEC documents show.
While the group’s purchases only account for a fraction of Carson’s total book sales, each book has spent several weeks on the New York Times best-seller list. ("America the Beautiful" landed there in 2013, long before the group was formed.) Carson’s latest book, "One Nation." topped the best-seller list in June and nearly outsold former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s memoir, "Hard Choices," multiple news outlets reported last week. Publishers and advocacy organizations have used bulk purchases to boost the standing of books on best-seller lists in the past.
Carson, a retired doctor known for his work in pediatric neuroscience at Johns Hopkins Hospital, skyrocketed to prominence in conservative political circles in February 2013 after he delivered a diatribe against President Obama’s health insurance law during a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast while the president sat just a few feet away. Carson’s address was followed by a bombardment of requests for him to speak at conservative conferences and a chorus of activists urging him to run for president. In August 2013, Robinson and John Philip Sousa IV — the great-grandson of the "Stars and Stripes Forever” composer — launched the super PAC urging him to run.
Carson, however, has proven to be a polarizing figure since his Prayer Breakfast speech. In October 2013, for example, Carson said he believed the Democratic health care law was “the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery,” and in March, he said that the United States was becoming "very much like Nazi Germany."
Those comments haven’t stopped donations from pouring into Robinson and Sousa’s super PAC. For two straight quarters, the rate of donations to the pro-Carson group has outpaced funding for Ready for Hillary, a PAC set up to encourage the former secretary of state to make a presidential bid. According to FEC filings, Ready for Hillary raised $2.5 million from April to June, while the National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee reports a $3.3 million haul during that time.
In an interview with Yahoo News, Robinson said he was surprised by the rate of fundraising since he helped launched the group last summer.
“Dr. Carson is a very compelling figure, but the fundraising has exceeded our expectations,” Robinson said. “That means we can do more things, get more goodies out to volunteers, do more events. I was hoping to raise $8 million by the end of the year, but it’s probably going to happen by the end of the month. The new goal is $12 million.”