Texas businessman Terry Giles, Ben Carson's former campaign chairman and close friend of more than 20 years, has been “shut out” from his presidential campaign just as the retired former neurosurgeon has ascended to the level of Republican front-runner.
Giles, who was one of the dominant forces behind Carson's exploratory committee back in early 2015, is no longer formally connected to the campaign nor is he acting as an adviser, sources close to the Carson's campaign told Bloomberg.
“He was shut out,” said a senior campaign staffer who requested anonymity to speak more freely about the matter.
Giles, who hired most of the senior Carson campaign staffers and laid the foundation for the campaign, says he's taking time off to recharge and plans to return next year to help Carson assemble a team of policy advisers.
“Ben and I agreed that unless he needed me, I was going to go to the sideline and attend to my businesses and reacquaint myself with my wife,” Giles said in an interview with Bloomberg.
The departure of Carson's long-time confidant, a day after Carson issued a public statement of support for another friend who has been convicted of fraud, underscores how the Carson campaign has transformed as its grown into a more professional operation headed by advisers who have experience working in national campaigns. Like Carson, Giles had no prior political experience.
It also comes after the Wall Street Journal quoted Giles as saying that he helped prepare Carson for the Oct. 28 Republican presidential debate. By Giles's own account, that would have been within days of his Oct. 17 exit from two super-PACs supporting Carson. The senior Carson staffer said Giles had no role in the candidate's debate preparation. “I was in the debate prep rooms, Terry Giles was never there,” said the source.
There were “concerns” that Giles, who has practiced law but has no prior campaign experience, didn't fully understand Federal Election Commission regulations on interactions between the staff of a campaign and a super-PACs supporting it, the campaign source said. The source was unaware of any FEC complaints filed in connection with Giles. Super-PACs, which don't have to abide by the same fundraising limits as candidate campaign committees, aren't supposed to coordinate with the candidates they are backing. After chairing Carson's exploratory committee and hiring most of the candidate's senior campaign staffers, Giles moved to the 2016 Committee and Our Children's Future, both super-PACs backing Carson. He said he waited the federally mandated 120-day cooling-off period before starting in his new role.
“I've been very careful—incredibly careful—and I've been following the advice of lawyers with every step I've made,” Giles said. “And I am a trained lawyer.”
Giles's account was corroborated by Larry Noble, senior counsel for the Campaign Legal Center. A sharp critic of super-PACs, Noble nonetheless said that Giles's account of his spin through the revolving door violated no law. “The FEC rules acllow connections between the super-PAC and the candidate that would be considered coordination in everyday life,” he said.
Giles said he worked for the two outside groups from Sept. 4 to Oct. 17. “On October 17, I told [the leaders of the PACs] that hopefully we could all have a drink when it was all over, but I wasn't going to be communicating with them because I was going to turn my attention to doing research for the team Ben would assemble once he's elected,” Giles said.
Nine days later—on the Sunday before the Oct. 28 Republican debate—Giles said that he and his wife Kalli flew to south Florida to have dinner with Carson and his wife Candy at a restaurant inside the Carson's gated community.
“I handed him all of the research I'd been doing on monetary and fiscal policy,” Giles said. “Ben indicated to me that he really felt prepared for the debate. He felt he was ready to go.”
Confronted with the campaign's assertions that he was not involved in Carson's debate preparation, Giles said that was the sum his involvement. At that dinner, Giles said he told Carson that he was “tired and beat up” from the political life and was “ready to go back to my business career.”
“He's asked me to put together a team of experts and people willing to go to Washington with him should he be elected to help turn the country around,” said Giles, adding that he expects to start work on that early next year.
Giles first met Carson in 1994, when both men were inducted into the Horatio Alger Association, an elite professional business society. The pair quickly became close friends—so close that Carson singled Giles out for praise in his announcement speech last May.
“When I started this endeavor, I am familiar with a man who has started over 30 companies, is extraordinarily successful,” Carson said. “And I asked him to put together the rest of the team in order to be able to do this. His name is Terry Giles.”