Ethics Don't Matter? Hunter Biden to Meet Potential Buyers of His $75,000+ Worth Paintings
© AFP 2021 / -(FILES) In this file photo video grab made on August 20, 2020 from the online broadcast of the Democratic National Convention, being held virtually amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, shows former vice-president and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden speaking during the last day of the convention.
The White House earlier defended the president son's plans to hold an art auction, by pledging that neither he, nor the president will know who the potential buyers are. That pledge didn't hold well.
Hunter Biden is planning to meet potential buyers of his paintings ahead of the auction despite earlier assurances by the White House that he won't know their identity. These paintings are expected to go on average for at least $75,000 per piece, according to one of the art galleries hosting the exhibition of his paintings. However, the biggest items might attract bids up to $500,000.
"Oh yes. With pleasure. He's looking forward to it. It is like someone debuting in the world. And of course he will be there," the spokeswoman from the Georges Berges Gallery in New York said in an interview with CBS News.
The meet and greet will apparently take place at the art galleries where Hunter's paintings are exhibited, ahead of the auction. The date of the latter remains unknown.
The sale sparked concerns that Hunter might be selling access to his father, US President Joe Biden, or simply profiting from his name, since he previously had no qualification in art. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki defended Hunter's plan to organise the sale, arguing he has the right to profit from his new calling.
"Of course, he has the right to pursue an artistic career just like any child of a president has the right to pursue a career," the spokeswoman said.
Obama-Era Ethics Chief Lambasts Hunter's Art Sale
Psaki revealed that the White House made an agreement with the gallery organising the sale, that the identity of all potential buyers and people who buy Hunter's art be concealed. It is unclear how the first part of these efforts is going to hold now that the president's son is planning to meet the potential buyers in person.
The White House's efforts, which were supposedly aimed at preventing speculations that the art sale is a cover-up for illegal lobbying or donations, were harshly criticised by the Obama administration's ethics chief Walter Shaub. He pointed at the fact that "outsourcing" ethics to art salesmen, who are often used in money-laundering schemes, is unacceptable and stressed that this scheme is in no way a substitute for blind trusts normally used in situations such as this. Commenting on the revelations to CBS News, Shaub sarcastically wondered how Biden is planning to uphold the "anonymity" of buyers that the White House had supposedly set up for him.
"Is Hunter Biden going to walk around the art show with a blindfold on? It just goes to show you the focus isn't on government ethics. It's just showing the child of a president can cash in on the presidency," Shaub said.
Shaub is not the only person, who has raised questions regarding Hunter's potentially unethical ways of profiting from his father's name and a potential conflict of interests between the father and son. Congress Republicans on the House Oversight Committee have called for an investigation into the matter.
"Reports regarding President Biden's family members attempting to profit from their proximity to the White House have been disturbing and recurring. Unfortunately, these reports of President Biden using his former official positions of public trust to swell the coffers of his family members are widespread, and any hope that the pattern of family self-dealing would finally stop when he assumed the presidency has been dashed," the Republicans wrote in a letter sent to the White House Counsel's Office.
Former President Donald Trump tried to look into a potential conflict of interest within the Biden family in 2019, requesting Ukrainian authorities to investigate the sacking in 2016 of the country's former top prosecutor Viktor Shokin. The US and specifically the then-vice president, Joe Biden, put pressure on Ukraine to fire Shokin just as he was conducting a corruption probe into local gas company Burisma, where Hunter was a member of the board.
Trump's efforts, however, were met with vehement opposition from Democrats, once they became public. The Democrat members of Congress accused Trump of pressuring Ukraine into opening an inquiry into Biden and his son by withholding military assistance to the country. Both Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenski denied this allegation. Despite that, the House Democrats impeached the president, who ultimately remained in power by defeating the charges against him in the GOP-controlled Senate.