Hunter Biden profited from his father’s political connections long before he struck questionable deals in countries where Joe Biden was undertaking diplomatic missions as vice president. In fact, virtually all the jobs listed on his resume going back to his first position out of college, which paid a six-figure salary, came courtesy of the former six-term senator’s donors, lobbyists, and allies, a RealClearInvestigations examination has found.
That the 50-year-old Hunter has been trading on his Democratic father’s political influence his entire adult life raises legal questions about possible influence-peddling, government watchdogs and former federal investigators say. In addition, the more than two-decades-long pattern of nepotism casts fresh doubt on Joe Biden’s recent statements that he “never discussed” business with his son, and that his activities posed “no conflicts of interest.”
No fewer than three committees in the Republican-controlled Senate have opened probes into potential Biden family conflicts. While most of the attention on Hunter has focused on his dealings in Ukraine and China when his father was in the White House, he also cashed in on cushy jobs and sweetheart deals throughout his dad’s long Senate career, records reveal.
“Hunter Biden’s Ukraine-China connections are just one element of the Biden corruption story,” said Tom Fitton, president of the Washington-based watchdog group Judicial Watch, who contends Biden used both the Office of the Vice President and the Senate to advance his son’s personal interests.
In each case, Hunter Biden appeared under-qualified for the positions he obtained. All the while, he was a chronic abuser of alcohol and drugs, including crack cocaine, and has cycled in and out of no fewer than six drug-rehab treatment programs, according to published reports.
A Plum Post After College
Hunter Biden’s résumé begins 24 years ago, when, fresh out of college, he was put on the credit-card giant MBNA’s payroll as a “senior vice president,” earning more than $100,000 a year, plus an undisclosed signing bonus. Delaware-based MBNA at the time was Joe Biden’s largest donor and was lobbying the Delaware senator for reforms that would make it harder for consumers to declare bankruptcy and write off credit-card debt. The senator eventually came through for MBNA by sponsoring and whipping votes in the Senate to pass the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention Act.
Hunter also capitalized on the Biden family name in 1998 when he joined President Clinton’s Commerce Department, where, with no experience in the dot-com industry, he was appointed “executive director of e-commerce policy coordination,” pulling down another six-figure salary plus bonuses.
After Republican President George W. Bush took over the Commerce Department, Hunter left the government and joined his father’s longtime campaign manager and lawyer William Oldaker in forming the lobbying shop Oldaker, Biden & Belair in Washington, just blocks from Congress, where he gained access to exclusive business and political deals.
In 2005, when Joe Biden was thinking about making another run at the White House, his lobbyist son was looking for a new line of work, too—in part because his father worried about conflict-of-interest allegations dogging his potential presidential bid. With the help of Wall Street executive and Biden family friend Anthony Lotito, the Bidens hatched a scheme to buy a hedge fund. Despite having no Wall Street experience, Hunter was appointed interim CEO and president of the Paradigm investment fund and given a $1.2 million salary, according to SEC filings.
During this same period, Hunter was appointed vice-chairman of the taxpayer-subsidized Amtrak rail line, thanks to the sponsorship of powerful Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.), a political ally of his father. Amtrak officials and employees have been big supporters of Joe Biden—for example donating a total of $44,490 to Biden this year (versus $12,413 to Trump), according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Amtrak even named a train station after him in Wilmington. In return, Biden has supported taxpayer subsidies for the government railroad throughout his political career.
No-Show Jobs, Incredible Deals
In 2009, five months after his father had taken office as vice president in the Obama Administration, Hunter co-founded the investment firm Rosemont Seneca Partners LLC and incorporated it in his father’s home state of Delaware, which has strict corporate secrecy rules. At the time, Obama had tapped Vice President Biden to oversee the recovery from the financial crisis. Three weeks after Rosemont was incorporated, Hunter and his partners set up a subsidiary called Rosemont TALF and got $24 million in loans from the federal program known as the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility. TALF was designed to help bail out banks and auto lenders hit by the crisis.
Also, after Joe Biden became vice president, Hunter landed a high-paying, no-show, “of counsel” job at the New York-based law firm Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, a Democrat shop long tied to the Clintons.
After Obama named Vice President Biden his point man on China policy, Rosemont Seneca set up a joint venture worth $1 billion with the Bank of China called BHR—and Hunter was named vice-chairman and director of the new concern. Hunter’s new venture won the first-of-its-kind investment deal with the Chinese government at the same time Biden was jetting to Beijing to meet with top communist leaders.
“No one else had such an arrangement in China,” said Peter Schweizer, president of the Government Accountability Institute.
Hunter resigned from the board of the Beijing-backed equity firm earlier this year as his father faced growing criticism on the campaign trail over what critics called a glaring conflict of interest. He did not, however, divest his 10 percent equity stake in the Chinese fund, which is estimated to be worth tens of millions of dollars.
And finally, of course, there is the matter of Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian gas giant that added Hunter to its board soon after Obama named his father to head up Ukraine policy, focusing on energy. The company paid Hunter as much as $83,000 a month, though he had no energy experience and was required to attend just one board meeting a year. At the time, the vice president was steering U.S. aid to Kyiv to help develop its gas fields, which stood to benefit Burisma as the holder of permits to develop natural gas in three of Ukraine’s most lucrative fields.
Burisma was run by an oligarch, Mykola Zlochevsky, then under investigation and seeking Western protection from prosecution. Biden’s office was aware Burisma was under investigation. In early 2016, Biden threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees if Ukraine did not dismiss the country’s top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who was investigating Burisma. Biden’s muscling worked: Shokin was sacked in March 2016.
“I was forced out because I was leading a wide-ranging corruption probe into Burisma, and Joe Biden’s son was a member of the board,” Shokin said in a recent sworn affidavit prepared for a European court. “I assume Burisma had the support of Joe Biden because his son was on the board.” He added that the vice president himself had “significant interests” in Burisma.
Hunter stepped down from Burisma’s board in April 2019, a month before his father announced his White House bid and after critics made an issue of the conflicts his sinecure posed. He has since kept a low profile.
Appearances of Impropriety
Retired FBI official I.C. Smith, who led public corruption investigations in Washington and Little Rock, Arkansas, said both father and son should have known joining Burisma was a bad idea, adding that it gives at least the appearance that Hunter was leveraging his name for payoffs from shady clients abroad.
“Clearly he’s led a troubled life and would be the sort of person susceptible to becoming engaged in this sort of rather sordid deal,” Smith said of Hunter.
Fitton says that Judicial Watch is demanding Obama Administration documents related to Hunter’s Ukraine and China deals, as well as other business arrangements potentially monetizing Biden’s political power.
It’s a federal crime to provide a government benefit or favorable change in policy in exchange for something of personal value. At a minimum, argued former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy, Biden “had a conflict of interest with the position his son had” on the Burisma board, noting that at the time, Biden was pushing energy policies that favored the gas giant.
U.S. Senate investigators are seeking a number of related emails and memos generated during the Obama Administration, as well as Biden’s 36-year Senate career. But Biden has sealed the bulk of the records at the University of Delaware Library, which refuses to release any of his papers until after the election.
Through a lawyer, Hunter maintained he and his father dutifully avoided “conflicts of interest”—or even “the appearance of such conflicts.” In every business pursuit, he asserted, they acted “appropriately and in good faith.”
In a moment of candor during a recent ABC News interview, however, Hunter confessed: “I don’t think that there’s a lot of things that would have happened in my life if my last name wasn’t Biden.”
Editor’s note: A longer version of this story first appeared at RealClearInvestigations.