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As long as we’re on the subject of quid pro quos, it appears that Joe Biden has more than a little passing familiarity with the concept. As one of the most senior members of the Senate, Biden twice intervened with federal agencies in ways that benefited his son Hunter’s clients, the Washington Examiner’s Alana Goodman reports. Both interventions took place when Biden was running for president in 2007, and involve curiously arcane topics to everyone except Hunter’s clients:
On Feb. 28, 2007, Biden contacted DHS to express that he was “concerned about the Department’s proposed chemical security regulations authorized by Section 550 of DHS Appropriations Act of 2007,” according to the department’s log of its contacts with members of Congress.
Section 550, which was passed in 2006 as part of the DHS appropriations bill, requires high-risk chemical plants to submit site safety plans to DHS for approval, including security credentialing and training for employees.
Eight weeks earlier, the Industrial Safety Training Council had hired Hunter Biden’s firm to lobby DHS on the issue. The trade group, which represents companies that provide safety training for chemical facility employees, was mounting a heavy lobbying campaign over section 550, submitting congressional testimony about the need to expand background checks for chemical plant employees.
Just to remind everyone of the timing, Biden had announced his presidential bid on January 7, 2007, and he didn’t officially suspend it until almost precisely a year later on January 3, 2008. The official launch date of the Biden campaign was January 31, 2007, four weeks prior to Biden’s intervention at DHS. Having someone who was not just a senior senator but also a serious (at the time) contender for the presidential nomination taking an interest in security regs must have raised a few eyebrows at DHS.
And Biden’s interest in this arcane issue is curious, too. Biden sat on the Judiciary Committee in 2007 (having formerly chaired it) and chaired the Foreign Relations Committee. As far as can be seen on either Wikipedia or his campaign’s website, Biden never sat on the Homeland Security Committee, at that time or any other. Why would Biden take such an interest in an arcane DHS regulation at all, let alone the one that his son’s law firm client wanted to challenge?
The other intervention noted by Goodman was at least within the purview of one of Biden’s committee assignments. On the same day that Biden officially launched his presidential campaign, he took the time to check in with the Attorney General to request a meeting about boosting funding for a fingerprint system involved in federal background checks:
“I write to request your assistance in implementing an expanded background check system for our nation’s volunteer organizations,” wrote Biden. “If we can work together to expand the number of volunteer organizations that have access to fast, accurate, and inexpensive fingerprint background checks, we will make significant and important strides in our ongoing effort to protect kids across our country.”
Biden added, “I would like to convene a small meeting with key representatives” from DOJ, the FBI, members of Congress and volunteer groups.
One of Hunter’s firm’s lobbying clients at the time, a coalition of state-level criminal justice advocates called SEARCH, was also lobbying the federal government for a broader fingerprint screening system at the time.
In this case, however, Biden’s intervention went beyond a phone call. Early the next year, after Biden dropped out of the presidential primary campaign, he returned to the Senate and Judiciary to author the Child Protection Improvements Act. Guess what the bill contained, and guess who lobbied for its passage?
Biden introduced a bill called the “Child Protection Improvements Act” on March 13, 2008, which created a national fingerprint background check system for volunteer groups that worked with children. Oldaker, Biden & Belair promptly began lobbying for the bill on behalf of their client, SEARCH, according to lobbying records. SEARCH paid the firm $93,000 in 2008, records show.
It turned out that Biden’s seat on Judiciary came in handy for Hunter and his client.
Later that year when Barack Obama selected Joe Biden as his running mate, Hunter left the firm. That was due to concerns about Hunter’s connections to Biden’s actions in the Senate, as well as Biden’s attempts to leverage his influence to find his son a different job, according to a 2007 lawsuit brought by one of Biden’s business associates:
Before Joe Biden launched his second campaign for president in November 2006, he sought to find Hunter Biden a new line of work as he became “concerned with the impact that Hunter’s lobbying activities might have on his expected campaign for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination,” according to court documents filed by Hunter Biden’s former business associate Anthony Lotito in New York in 2007 as part of a dispute between the two men.
According to claims Lotito made as part of a lawsuit targeting the Bidens, Joe Biden tasked his brother, James, with finding his son a new job, and James Biden reached out to Lotito for help.
“[James] Biden told Lotito that, in light of these concerns, his brother had asked him to seek Lotito’s assistance in finding employment for Hunter in a non-lobbying capacity,” the court documents read. “Lotito agreed to help, and, in connection therewith, began to consider whether any of his contacts in the financial community might be a good starting place in which to seek out employment on Hunter’s behalf.”
Shortly after Lotito connected with Hunter and James Biden, the trio worked with Lotito to acquire a hedge fund called Paradigm. But within months, the deal began to unravel. Lotito filed the lawsuit in New York accusing the Bidens of cutting him out of the Paradigm deal, and the Bidens countered that Lotito had misrepresented the value of the hedge fund they had acquired.
The Bidens eventually settled with Lotito in 2008 after incurring “$1.3 million in out-of-pocket losses,” according to court records filed by the Bidens in the case. Hunter Biden later called the ordeal “a tragicomedy,” according to The New Yorker.
It’s quite the track record of the appearance of nepotism and familial enrichment. That brings us to this morning, when Joe Biden tried to make an “at least we’re not the Trumps!” argument on CBS:
“Do you believe President Trump’s children have acted properly and avoided conflicts of interest?” O’Donnell asked.
“Look, I wasn’t raised to go after the children. Their actions speak for themselves. I can just tell you this, that if I’m president, get elected president, my children are not gonna have offices in the White House. My children are not gonna sit in on cabinet meetings,” Biden said.
Hunter hasn’t really needed a desk in Joe’s office, has he?