Ben Carson’s “Producers?”

We’ve already taken a look here at PA at Dr. Ben Carson’s close association with noted conservative talk-show huckster Armstrong Williams. But more attention is being paid at the moment to another close associate, the head of the National Draft Ben Carson Committee, Vernon Robinson, who’s earning some serious coin for his efforts so far.

Dave Weigel reminds us of why Robinson’s name might sound a bit familiar:

I was surprised at how few people remembered Robinson’s 2006 campaign for Congress, when he challenged Democratic Representative Brad Miller in a safe blue seat in North Carolina. In that first election of the YouTube era, Robinson became a sensation, out-fundraising Miller by five figures even as he went down to defeat. He built a national network, helped by infamous TV ads like the spot that asked voters to consider what was wrong with an America in which “seven out of 10 black children are born out of wedlock, and Jackson and Sharpton claim the answer is racial quotas.”

That’s actually among the milder things Robinson’s ads said; they were well-designed right-wing low-dollar-donor bait. But it’s what their target says about the Robinson campaign that’s most interesting:

Miller, who retired in 2012 after his seat was gerrymandered out of existence, remembers Robinson as a rival who “gives crazy a bad name.”

“My television consultant in 2006 thought the campaign was a scam, like the musical ‘Springtime for Hitler’ in The Producers,” says Miller. “The campaign raised $2.2 million, and spent most (almost all) of that on fundraising. The money went to consultants, who we thought were in turn paying Robinson, maybe for the use of donor lists from his previous campaign, which might have been arguably legitimate, but probably just a kickback.”

Robinson’s ads were produced by Nate Pendley, who’d been suspended from the North Carolina bar, only to be reinstated after his mis-steps were pegged to mental illness. Pendley did not go away; he wound up working as chief of staff to Texas Representative Steve Stockman, who’s retiring this year as a grand jury investigates whether he violated campaign finance reporting requirements.

There may be zero connection, but the Stockman campaign was accused of raising money and then failing to mount an actual campaign.

And maybe it’s all a coincidence, but when a novice politician shows an impressive ability to use the bloodiest of red meat to raise a lot of money for a campaign that is extremely unlikely to go anywhere, and his top advisers are people like Williams and Robinson, you have to wonder what its goals actually are.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.