There are either a lot of people or a few very rich people who really, really want Ben Carson to run for president. A committee to draft him to run for president, the National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee, has raised more than $2 million despite having no association with him and his repeated insistence that he has no interest in running.
The National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee raised $2.4 million over the past three months, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission, outpacing far more prominent rivals. Carson, a 62-year-old retired neurosurgeon and political commentator, has never run for elected office. And there are few signs the fundraising boomlet has changed his mind. Running for office “has never been something that I have a desire to do,” Carson told TIME last month. The draft committee has no affiliation with the prospective candidate himself.
So how is a political neophyte with little campaign infrastructure, scant interest in the presidency and no real chance of winning helping raise all that cash?
As Michael Scherer and I explained in a feature story last month, Carson’s acolytes have tapped into the lucrative world of conservative direct marketing. His money-making machine has followed a well-honed formula: renting and expanding email lists, beseeching supporters for cash through email and the postal service, and then reinvesting big chunks of the proceeds in ever more appeals to activists. Once it cranks into gear, the machine is tough to stop. And its methods can be successful whether or not the cause is viable.The hub of Carson’s fundraising drive is in an office park in northern Virginia, where the direct-mail wizard Bruce Eberle oversees a constellation of companies that raise money for clients. Eberle, an old lion of the conservative marketing world, has had decades of success connecting GOP activists and causes. It has sent more than two million pieces of mail on behalf of Carson, Tammy Cali, the president of Eberle Associates, told TIME last month. The response has exceeded anybody’s expectations.
They think they’re going to raise more than $8 million eventually. Not for a Political Action Committee for his campaign, just for a committee to convince him to run. And I hope he does. One more in the clown car.