What Hunter Biden Did Was Legal — And That’s the Problem

We need a Washington Corrupt Practices Act to stop political families from self-dealing.

Comments: 207

  1. Any particular reason you didn’t mention the Trump children’s persistent and extreme corruption? They have profited off the presidency with wild abandon.

  2. @Emme Sure, Schweizer could have picked a pair of presidents (Trump, Bill Clinton) to bring into this discussion, or picked Cheney instead of McConnell, or picked hundreds of others. Questioning the author, who is attempting to be balanced and non-partisan in his attack against corruption, for not hitting our favorite political target is unnecessary. Corruption is rampant in this country - at all levels and by both parties.

  3. @Dave That sounds like false equivalency to me, because while clearly examples can be found in both parties, one party, with their leader currently in the oval office, seems to be much more prolific at it. Also,being that the person currently in the WH seems to be throwing the most stones, I would think that would make his family's business dealings worthy of at least a passing mention...

  4. Yes, the reason if “trump” has succeeded in making folks like this guy focus on Biden. His is good at deflecting and media, etc., are always ready to take the bait. ‘Nothing illegal...’ but the only thing readers will take away from this is ‘scandal’ and in their minds this will = illegal. So “trump” wins again. And we lose. Again.

  5. A fantastically naive article! We live in a global society of global companies. US law applies only in the US. Companies headquartered here must compete, for survival, with companies headquarted elsewhere. If bribes to the politically powerful must be paid to stay in the game, then they will be paid. If they are not paid directly, then they will be channeled through countries such as Switzerland that provide that clandestine service. Anyone who believes otherwise has never worked and survived in the global marketplace.

  6. @Penseur One of the problems that I see is that since US Capitalists decided to take a dance with Communist China, North Americans have been duped into believing that each and every democratic decision rests on global trade (read: dancing with China). No one notices that global warming hit record highs as China built out thousands of coal plants to keep Wal-mart fat with cheap junk. I wonder why nobody remembers that America once had a proud factory model, a democracy that insisted on fair labour and improved environment practices, all of which led to a healthier North America. Why is it that we're supposed to smile as American politicians continue to give the country away? Just because corruption exists just about everywhere doesn't mean we now should embrace it. That's Capitalism talking. Not Democracy. And the two are clearly not dependent on each other.

  7. @Penseur "US law applies only in the US": This is simply not true. Many foreign-based blue chip companies and banks have paid multi-billion fines in the U.S. for corruption charges abroad or sanction breaches, none of it happening in the U.S.

  8. @m. k. jaks : I understand your emotions and sympathize, but then there are the facts. Take a look next time you cross that southern border at the labels on goods in any shopping mall. Note how very few say Made in USA. I can remember when most did. Those days seem gone forever. I was reared in a once prosperous US factory town, that now is pure rust belt. I managed to make a living by joining what I could not beat, a large multinational. I was not alone. One adapts to survive.

  9. It seems impossible Hunter Biden would have gotten these lucrative jobs were he not the VP's son. The trouble with requiring politicians to disclose their family member's employment, investments and receipt of gifts is that from a legal standpoint it's none of their business. Joe Biden can't compel Hunter Biden to disclose his financial information any more than Hunter Biden can compel Joe Biden to run for President. Hunter Biden may be Joe's son, but he isn't 16 years old. In the eyes of the law he is his own entity.

  10. @M. Sideburnz We read "The trouble with requiring politicians to disclose their family member's employment, investments and receipt of gifts is that from a legal standpoint it's none of their business." This makes no sense. The proposed law MAKES it their business. This is how law works.

  11. @M. Sideburnz What you are saying is, if relatives of powerful politicians get appointed to high paying no show jobs, its none of our business. Nonsense. Its a form of kickback or payoff for political influence, and anyone who is familiar with corrupt practices in government knows it. If your family is so out of control as you suggest, its time to retire from public service. I was in NJ state government. There was a guy on the Public Utility Commission whose son was employed by the law firm that represented several major utility companies. That certainly was not Kosher, as the father never recused himself from cases where the utility was represented by the son's law firm. Finally, in an ethical house cleaning, this state employee was shown the door.

  12. @M. Sideburnz Law requires that those in the financial industry disclose the investments, employment and financial dealings of their immediate family members (to help monitor and prevent insider trading). Why shouldn't the same hold true for elected officials? The intent is not to stop capable adult relatives of political figures from pursuing legitimate business opportunities and using their own talents to advance their careers, but rather providing transparency to help monitor and stop corruption.

  13. TRUMP TEST From now on all laws must pass the Trump Test. Because otherwise, let's stop making laws that only the president can violate. I want the right to violate any law I do not agree with. Laws are for those who cannot afford and attorney everyone else gets justice.

  14. @Tommy Obeso Jr 'Because otherwise, let's stop making laws that only the president can violate.' I know right? Joe Biden has become the poster boy for cronyism, yet there is no law saying he cannot do just that. You and I could not hire family into our business without getting sued for discrimination in hiring practices. But Joe can put his boy in two boards and then run for president. Simply disgusting.

  15. Great article! And great points! But, given that it is the same politicians that stand to benefit from today's lax regulation that must enact the proposed Washington Corrupt Practices Act, it will be difficult to get it through.

  16. In the finance sector there is a term of art: a PEP, a "politically exposed person." When so designated, that person is subjected to further tests for potential fraud and bribery and if so, sorry, no deal. Children of all politicians should likewise be designated as PEPs. If this had been the case with Biden Jr., there would be no scandal today, and alas, he may have been compelled to seek honest work for an honest dollar.

  17. Personal political corruption is frequently noticeable, re portable and sensational. Corruption further down the family tree as with the Bidens and the McConnells is another story. That corruption is remote. In the current political milieu all politicians and their offspring consider it a birthright to capitalize on political prowess. There are literally thousands upon thousands of national and local politicians who trade profitably on their political status. I'm a lifelong Dem and I don't think the Bidens and McConnells or the Doles or the Trumps or the Clintons or the Bushes are taint free in this regard. Close the loopholes.

  18. Add to this the perennially stymied legislation known as the Stock Act which would prevent members of Congress from trading in the stock market while they are in office and for some years after they leave to prevent insider trading. Hillary, Pelosi - 2 democratic icons, have profited handsomely from trades timed just right. Rep Chris Collins (R-NY) and his son were just convicted of insider trading because they just weren't sneaky enough. Remember when Harry Truman took a train home after his presidency and basically left Washington broke? Ah, the good ole days.

  19. Great article. It’s long overdue to apply the standards of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act to our own swamps. We don’t expect foreign countries to have environmental standards that are higher than our own, but when it comes to corruption, we currently do.

  20. This would have been an interesting article had I read the name "Trump" among those families whose members cash in on their official positions. Do you really believe the wealthy Indian buyers of Trump branded condo units - promoted by Donald Jr. in his sales trip to India last year - were not purchasing access to the President's son? No mention of President Trump openly bragging about his resorts and hotels that are patronized by foreign governments and in which he conducts official business at taxpayer expense?

  21. Shouldn't it be the family member, not the public official, who should be obligated to disclose? The public official legitimately may not know what their adult family member is up to.

  22. @weffie I don't see how the jurisdiction works. An adult family member is a free person, free to engage in their own remunerative acts. How exactly would it not be a impingement on their rights to impair their freedom to earn a living? I'm fine with disclosure and transparency but barring people from pursuing a livelihood? That's out there.

  23. Here's what's true: Hunter Biden got appointed to boards and received payments simply because he was the son of the Vice President. In addition to Chaos, Mr. Schweizer left out President Trump, whose properties both here and abroad have already profited enormously from those who seek to curry influence with the White House. Here's what's false: Vice President Biden had a Ukrainian prosecutor fired because he was investigating his son. The documented evidence shows the OPPOSITE of that - that Vice President Biden was sent to Ukraine at the behest of the State Department, Pentagon, 38 countries of the E.U., and the World Bank to pressure Ukraine to get rid of a hold-over prosecutor who WASN'T investigating corruption because he was too tied to Russian oligarchs. But conspiracy theorists will never separate what's true from what's false. They believe any proof given against their theories is false (or isn't enough proof), or any lack of proof is proof itself of a "deep state" cover-up. Mr. Schweizer points to a glaring loophole in U.S. law, but such subtleties are lost on a mob that believes that the utterly corrupt Mr. Trump, in his " great and unmatched wisdom" is blameless in his search for "truth" about the Bidens.

  24. @jrinsc Gee, if the Bidens are so innocent of anything remotely illegal, why are they so afraid of an investigation — so fearful that they have to brand such an investigation “treason?”

  25. @james The Bidens certainly can be investigated. As I understand it, Hunter Biden already was, but maybe it should be re-opened and looked at. The "treason" was President Trump asking for a favor to look into potential corruption of a political rival. Not any investigation - an investigation at the behest of the head of state. This type of investigation typically would be done by the FBI and/or CIA, and be kept entirely under wraps unless and until something actionable occurred to warrant legal action. Mr. Trump - without any evidence - screamed long and loud about the Obama admin wiretapping Trump tower. He clearly felt that it was treasonous for an opponent to "spy" on his campaign, so why now is it ok for him to spy on an opponent?

  26. @jrinsc "Vice President Biden was sent to Ukraine at the behest of the State Department, Pentagon, 38 countries of the E.U., and the World Bank to pressure Ukraine to get rid of a hold-over prosecutor who WASN'T investigating corruption because he was too tied to Russian oligarchs." Have you watched Joe Biden explaining the encounter? He got it all wrong, if your description is accurate. According to Biden, he was sent to deliver a $1BN loan guarantee aid package and the Ukrainians were dumbfounded when he raised the issue of the prosecutor. "So they said they had—they were walking out to a press conference. I said, nah, I’m not going to—or, we’re not going to give you the billion dollars. They said, you have no authority. You’re not the president. The president said—I said, call him."

  27. Any change in the laws governing corruption is about as likely as the passage of universal health care. It isn't going to happen. We are a greedy people, wedded to our twisted and cruel, and particularly American, version of capitalism. The powerful amass power and the wealthy make more money. There's too much cash at stake for even those we believe are the "good guys" to be committed to change that would reduce their own bottom lines. If I think about that for more than a minute, I am terrified.

  28. @oldteacher Poor analogy. Some economists would disagree whether universal health care is a good idea, but nobody except politicians thinks enrichment of their kin via their gov't position is a good thing. But what you say is true enough: politicians write the laws and little will change.

  29. Oh boy, I can't wait to see Congress try to write laws governing the plethora of different ways in which politicans and their relatives monetize political careers. Why don't they just start with something easy, like closing loopholes in the tax laws? (Tongue in cheek.) In the news today: Richest 400 families paid lower effective tax rate than bottom half of American families. That's where the corruption lies. What Hunter Biden or George W. Bush do (remember the Texas Rangers deal?) are rounding errors.

  30. RE: "no equivalent American law prevents a foreign company or government from hiring the family members of American politicians." And why should there be any law? Congress routinely votes to exempt itself and its members from almost any law that it passes. And points for writing this whole piece and not mentioning Trump's family enriching itself from business dealings based on Trump being President from shoes to hotels.

  31. Investors are regularly approached by relatives of the politically powerful, claiming to be able to deliver "special relationships" or funding sources because of their contacts. It is remarkable how many political relatives, with no investment experience, end up with large private equity or hedge funds, with significant investments from foreign investors, foreign government as well as state and union pension funds. We now have the Billion Dollar Presidency. No one wants to make enemies of their funders. Political office is now worth 8 to 9 to 10 figures

  32. First we have an American President who behind the scenes pressured and bribed a country under Russian occupation by withholding foreign aid (Ukraine)- or publicly a country we are engaged in a trade war with (China) in order to secure political gain in an election. Treasonous acts that are unlikely to be isolated. Second, let's assume this article is factually correct. That the practice described is on-going and pervasive in both political parties. Further, that this practice is legal in this country. So what should one conclude? We have a corrupt, treasonous President trying to selectively dig up dirt on an opponent that allegedly engaged in a kind of foreign country nepotism. A nepotism that should be illegal- but for weak laws that favor the powerful is not. A practice that said President's family blatantly engages in every day- both domestically and foreign. No wonder the average person is cynical. But in this case, one crime is by all definition treason- the other requires stronger laws, but stays within the bounds of legality. And this is the point. Since when is treason justified by legal or even illegal acts of others? The Constitution makes it clear what constitutes grounds for impeachment: "The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors." - Article 2, Section 4 May be Trump should read it one day.

  33. @Lowell Greenberg Fair enough, but wouldn't it be easier to get the moderates behind the idea of impeachment, if the other side wasn't engaged in shady dealings too? Yes, one may be illegal while the other is not. But if the democrats have their fingers in these kinds of greasy-little pies, it begins to feel a lot like the pot calling the kettle black. Don't get me wrong, I would take any democratic candidate over what we have now, but there is systemic corruption in our democracy that infects both sides, and I am getting righteously sick of my voting options coming down to "The lesser of two evils" every election cycle.

  34. @Lowell Greenberg and McConnell as well

  35. @Jason There’s a matter of scale to be considered. Nothing compares, on the Democrats’ side, with the stonewalling that Moscow Mitch has employed, or the gerrymandering surgically applied by the Republicans. Sure, both sides do some of it, but the Republicans are visibly way more corrupt. And then there’s Elizabeth Warren, who is anti-corruption champion and appears to be absolutely clean.

  36. On this day of Atonement, I am after reading this, contemplating purchasing Mr. Schweizer's book instead of Rachel Maddow's. She was top of mind before I read this but now, not so much.

  37. @Patrick Lovell Can't read both?

  38. @yahtzeejimbob well, sure, but what I thought was so clever about my response would then be less clever.

  39. The Kushners are completely unqualified for the positions they hold and the security clearances bestowed on them against the judgement of experienced security professionals. They have no portfolio other than enriching the family and monetizing the presidency. Republicans have allowed this corruption to explode from day one - which makes all republicans complicit, responsible and unfit for the office they hold.

  40. Did you read the article? The Democrats aren’t exactly falling over themselves to change this, and while Hunter Biden didn’t do anything illegal, what he did doesn’t seem to have been ethical. This isn’t a Republican issue: it’s an all parties issue.

  41. Absolutely agree--with the role is playing in our political system, but, the author is naive to believe that some form of legislation will stop big money---We are Rome on the decline, and all the monied corruption in that Empire is now present in our Empire.

  42. And there is wonderment about why the general public rates Congress at about the same approval level or lower than used car dealerships. In this case, the fish rots from the guts.

  43. Of course that is what we need! Candidates like Beto who say the they would not permit it have never explained how they could prevent an adult child from doing anything he/she wants to do. Their responses are nonsene. Parents know it is difficult enough to prevent a 5 year old from doing what he/she wants to do.

  44. Add these to the list: Presidents and Vice Presidents tax returns must be audited as a matter of law, not practice, those tax returns are made public when filed, in addition to full, detailed financial statements that disclose everything owned or owed to the penny.

  45. What sickening hypocrisy. A president who treats his office as an infomercial and puts a giant "For Sale" sign on the White House lawn. Presidential children and their spouses flying around the world on the taxpayers' dollar and openly self-dealing (How many Chinese patents does Ivanka have?). And a Repulican party braying about the last vice president's son working for a Ukrainian energy company. Whataboutism on a grand and cynical scale.

  46. @Christy Corruption is corruption. Doesn't matter the dollar amount of frequency. You're just having a hard time swallowing that a Democrat has his hand in the cookie jar, too.

  47. @Christy and who knows how little donnie jr. and the other one are taking advantage....someone should report on THAT.

  48. @M Strictly speaking "corruption" requires a violation of law which does not seem to have been the case with Hunter Biden, Ivanka Trump, Elaine Chao or the other political relatives. Despite my distaste for nepotism, I have mixed feelings about the desirability of a law prohibiting political relatives from taking advantage of otherwise legal business opportunities

  49. Have we ever had a more corrupt family use of high office than Trump’s children! Not a mention here.

  50. Very surprised that this piece failed to mention a lot of relevant components to this. For one: no Kushner, no Ivanka, no Don Jr. or Eric, and plenty more than them? Not even a recognition that this isn't limited to the Bidens and McConnell-Chaos. Kinda felt like this was pulling punches and being overly selective of its examples. Also, no reference whatsoever to the fact that Congress-people can own stock and interests in the very industries they regulate with absolutely no problem. Yep, that's legal! This piece just aims low and misses out on other examples of its thesis points and materially similar problems.

  51. You know I wish this op-ed came out during Biden's tenure as vice president. But since this whole story is just a secondary detail to the illegal and unconstitutional actions of the current president, it feels unnecessary and even willfully malicious.

  52. So the law has to change, its clear that the swamp will not

  53. “(Representatives of the fund claim that the timing of the deal and the Bidens’ trip to China was coincidental.)” Judge Judy does not believe in coincidences. I believe Judge Judy.

  54. So it's clear the Chao/McConnells should be investigated to see exactly where the money and influence and quid pro quo Intersect. And why not? Of course, to propose a similar path for investigating the Bidens is treason, and worthy of impeachment.

  55. Excellent. It's about time this article was written. But where was it when the whole Hunter Biden issue was first raised in connection with the President's call to Ukraine? Joe Biden has not been exactly forthcoming on this matter. And of course, neither have McConnell and Chao!

  56. If you want to be a public official you should have your tax made public and members of your family business open to audit. A great article and I will read mr. Schweitzer book. He is on to something that Democrats and American's should know about and take action. Biden's son and Biden himself should know their action does not pass the smell test.

  57. So, Dan, what does this country do about a president who cuts off aid in order to get dirt on a political adversary? We could talk all we want about, the political/financial influence of the Biden’s, the Mcconnells/Chow, the Clintons, and the Trumps. But what we should focus on now is what this president has done to get dirt on a political opponent now, today. His self described search for corrupt practices is one big distraTIO. As interesting as this article is, it fails to address the immediate matter. Yes, these vague rules/laws that allow for these kind of loopholes need to be clarified and established as new rules and laws make it clear that this is not acceptable behavior. But horse trading tax payer dollars for a “favor” that involves foreign policy is typical of this president. This article now is somewhat of a major distraction. The lead is the tip off, it starts with what Biden did,and not what Trump has done to alert an intelligence officer or two or more. Then the writer throws in the McConnell deals for bipartisan balance and stays clear of Trump’s violations, doing exactly what Trump is doing by shining the light on Biden and claiming that he was engaged in an innocent exchange of information with the Ukrainian president.

  58. I applaud Mr. Schweizer for his research and clear explanation of the Biden affair. And so as not to appear partisan exposing the McConnell debacle as well. However, the only way congress will act is if the people demand it. We have a rare opportunity to make our voices heard on this issue simply because the Ukraine and now the China influence peddling schemes are front page news. Joe Biden should withdraw from the Democratic primary race. What he did was technically legal, but it shows how he would run the white house and we've already had too much of that. But nepotism by government officials, especially those wielding powerful influence over billions in American aid shouldn't only be transparent, it should stop. In the judicial world there are rules requiring a judge to recuse themselves from a case because of a conflict of interest. For example, a judge should never rule on a case involving a corporation that they have invested in. But neither should they sit on a case where a family member is an investor. There the appearance of a conflict is as important as a direct conflict. The same rules should apply to politicians. This doesn't mean that a relative can't work in a business that has contracts with the government. But it means if they work in such a business their politician relative should not be involved in any decisions that might affect that contract, or job offer. Influence peddling undermines democracy, plan and simple and it must be curtailed by law.

  59. The handwringing and conspiracy theories are in abundance with this piece. The profiting from power, influence and wealth has been in practice for years by the privileged classes along with the purchase of favors. And no amount of legislation currently on the books or proposed will stop the peddling of influence. One only look at Trump and his nepotistic actions. One of my first exposures to influence peddling was the "fortunate son syndrome" during the selective service requirements years ago. And our dear leader, as he does now, used his privileged status to avail himself of the syndrome. But, keep up the stories and conspiracy theories about the Bidens, the McConnells, Bush, Clintons and those who are pushing for laws to limit influence peddling let us know how that battle is going.

  60. Many of us "Joe Six Packs" laugh when the mucky mucks in DC point fingers at corruption in other countries. It is so obvious that those with the power of influence manage the writing of laws so that down the line when their lack of integrity, honesty and morality is exposed, they can say, "I've done nothing illegal." Legislation of, by and for those in power that enables their nest to be feathered will continue and the swamp's stench will as well!

  61. This is America. Elaine Chao is a cabinet member and a Republican. I thought the law allowed them to be corrupt.

  62. Thank you. I have been waiting for this clear statement that whether it's ones own party or the other, it is wrong for family members of US elected or appointed officials to peddle their influence internationally. And when families do that, as they no doubt will, it should be investigated properly. Rule of just laws, please.

  63. Fortunately, Eric, Donald Jr., Ivanka and her husband Jared have not only scrupulously stayed within existing laws, but their punctilious ethics are unmatched in Presidential history. That’s a relief!

  64. Congress writing laws to prevent in-laws from enriching themselves would be a bit difficult to enforce. How many of levels of friends and families would need to be included in such legislation? At some point one hopes people vote out corrupt politicians. I am not hopeful.

  65. Trump breaking the law is not THE problem. We don't need new laws. We need new politicians that will: A) Follow the law B) Enforce the law against their own We can fix this without help from Washington.

  66. The “goings on” presented in this opinion article did not mention that the average folk do not seem to care. These practices happen everywhere, all the way down to local towns and their town boards, planning boards, zoning boards and local building departments. This ain’t nothin’ new ! But nobody seems to mind. The only thing that has put this in the forefront of national concern is the blatant examples of the Trump family, who just rudely said to the world “So What” and took full advantage right in everyone’s face.

  67. @John Taylor Full advantage of what? The point of pointing to the family of Elaine Chao being greased by the Chinese is to point out its similarity of what Burisma did with Hunter Biden. The difference is that McConnell has always been a hawk on China whereas Biden has apparently responded to the Chinese grease, to appease and cater and to endlessly advocate "doing business" with them, while ignoring the rising Chinese military threat in the South China Sea.

  68. It is incorrect to say that it is legal. Bribery, fraud and public corruption are simply dealt with under state common law. There is a curious lacunae having to do with jurisdiction, in which donations to foreign politicians' charities by American corporations are barred by federal law (Foreign Corrupt Practices Act) and enforced by the US FBI and DOJ, but donations to American politicians' charities, if objected to, have to be pursued by State A.G.s, or donors, or charity beneficiaries harmed, under state statutes or common law. But the briber-donor and those in the charity have no INCENTIVE to sue.

  69. Thank you for this opinion piece. A law is needed in order to rebuild faith in our politicians and our system. I appreciate the bipartisan examples of legal graft. Some commenters wish you had expanded this to give the Trump family as examples. I agree and would add the family self-enrichment of the Clinton Foundation, especially during the time Ms. Clinton was Secretary of State. But it’s everywhere, and we must get rid of it.

  70. This opinion starts the conversation. Key is: Will an honest conversation continue? Who will obstruct that conversation?

  71. The Dems should make cleaning up the corruption in Washington a centerpiece of their campaigns to retake the White House and the Senate. I think it would resonate in the country because it is something that people understand: corruption and nepotism.

  72. @Dick Moran You may notice that Warren and Sanders have made it cornerstones in their respective campaigns. The DNC would do well to follow their lead.

  73. @Dick Moran I agree. As a Democrat it turns my stomach that Joe Biden doesn't see how perfect an example this is of exactly what angers the public. How can he pretend to be a champion of the working class while actively participating in the game that only the connected can play?

  74. @Dick Moran but then you'd have purge the DNC and Dem leadership. If you're sincere about your impetus, support Bernie and join the revolution.

  75. Agree this loophole must be closed. Trumps are totally capitalizing on this, as has Hunter, Elaine Chao and many others. Government officials must be above reproach. These behaviors would not be tolerated where I work; why is this allowed in government?

  76. @Sumac Why, in government, you ask? Because we keep voting folks into office who then use the position to better themselves and not the country. REMEMBER, WE VOTED THESE PEOPLE IN OFFICE and then we let them stay.

  77. @marriea They were also voted in thanks to superb gerrymandering by the GOP (I know, the Dems do it too but not nearly to that extent) and help from Russian bots who suppressed voting and carried on a massive campaign of disinformation (aka lies).

  78. Imagine what would happen, if, by law, every US Congressman/woman, US Senator, President etc. was by US law audited every 1-2 years by an independent agency. Imagine what would happen if those audits extended to all family members of such 'elected' official? This should help to shut down foreign influence and self-enrichment by our public servants.

  79. @steve :What I cannot imagine is Congress ever approving such audits, or of the Supreme Court ever approving of such audits extending to relatives of Congress members, who are themselves not public officials. By implcation, it also would extend to relatives of Supreme Court Justices. That, they never, never would approve. Nor would you or I, I suspect, if we had a relative in Congress for whom we may not even have voted.

  80. @steve The howling you would hear would be an indication of just how corrupt our government and political system has become. I agree that something akin to what you have stated should be a first step to really drain the swamp

  81. @steve You'd have to audit every city council and mayor and county commission and planning commission across the country. You don't think Harry Reid got rich by being a Senator, do you? It's all about pass through corruption. They don't do it directly. They help a friend who commits to turning over $ at some point in the future when there is nobody looking. And we thought Ukraine was corrupt?

  82. The USA also needs to make it illegal for any lobbyist, attorney or person, other than direct employees of a foreign country, to advocate for a foreign country in the USA. We are the only nation that enforces our bribery laws on companies while allowing our politicians to be bought. Time to clean up the swamp.

  83. @Tammy That's a nice request but you're asking politicians to make laws that hurt politicians. It's like asking Congress to pass any law that hurts them. It's not going to happen. Even Trump can't make this happen. I'd prefer baby steps, like not allowing any money from groups outside the state of Minnesota to influence Minnesota state elections. Why should our Congressional delegation be jetting out to Hollywood and Manhattan every other weekend to raise money to influence an election decided by Minnesotan's for MInnesotans?

  84. @Tammy That would never pass First Amendment muster.

  85. @Tammy Bravo!

  86. Absolutely spot on. The antics of Hunter Biden, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, to name but a few, reflect sheer nepotism. All three would be flipping hamburgers if not for the influence of their parents. So what is the difference between influence peddling in dictatorships and democracies? None whatsoever, except that democracies should know and behave better, lest they become dictatorships.

  87. @Hamid Varzi YOu may be optimistic about their unassisted, theoretical career trajectory.

  88. @Hamid Varzi The antics of Hunter are not the same as those of Jared and Ivanka. For one, Hunter was not hired into the federal government. For two, there's not evidence that Joe was involved with Hunter in business. Not so with Donald and Jared.

  89. @Hamid Varzi Not true. Hunter Biden is a law school graduate with significant experience in the REAL business world. Kushner: No experience beyond bad real estate deals. Trump(s): No experience beyond their father's shady business deals.

  90. Yes, the wealthy and powerful are always going to scratch each other's backs, and take care of their family members. But since the Supremes ruled that campaign contributions are not bribery, what are we to do? Any law or regulation such as Mr. Schweizer proposes, would simply be "restraint of trade," particularly as such law or regulation would sanction the wealthy and powerful.

  91. @Kevin Brock Get rid of Citizens United. Require disclosure of the identities of all donors, direct and though PACs and 501(c)(4) organizations.

  92. @WastingTime - For the record, Citizens Divided was supported by 5 (R) Justices (all appointed by (R) presidents) and was opposed by 4 (D) Justices.

  93. @Kevin Brock Wonder if he wrote a column like this about Trump's crimes...or is that different?

  94. When I was younger, there were problems with relatives trying to profit from their relationships to leading politicians. Nixon, Carter, and Reagan all had to worry about close relatives trying to benefit. However, in those cases the politician tried to prevent their relative from benefiting. Nixon apparently had his brother's phone tapped. In recent years, politicians, such as Biden, Trump, Kerry, and McConnell seem to be encouraging their relatives to benefit from the relatives' relationship to the politicians. In other words, things seem to be getting worse.

  95. You articulate clearly the need for a new law, given the examples you used. I’m curious as to why no mention of the Trump children, who give us the most blatant need for such laws.

  96. @Trudy I think it's because of two reasons: One, the Trump family is too politicized, so any criticism of them would be construed as a criticism of their father's administration and therefore, the article would be discounted by people that would otherwise give it attention and two, the Trumps aren't quite a political dynasty. Biden and McConnell have been around for years. Trump has managed three years so far and might not even finish out his first term.

  97. @Student Third: They at least seem to be not on the board of a foreign company who could influence US which is the context of the article here.

  98. The Trump kin may not be on the boards of foreign companies (as far as I know), but they have benefited from foreign favors and are certainly in a position to influence US policy. Ivanka received a slew of trademarks from China and Jared a bail-out investment from Qatar, and the Trump sons have stated openly that Russia is where the money is. There’s no question that Hunter Biden’s business success stemmed from being the VP’s son. And some kind of law drawing lines against this kind of thing would help. But this article’s failure to mention the Trump kids and what is going on right here and now is a very glaring omission.

  99. I’m still waiting for the Corrupt Political Parties Act of 2021. By then, we will have so many fine examples of political corruption, it should be possible to craft comprehensive legislation appropriate for our times. But some reflection is needed too. Is the emphasis on family ties, or is there a better way to clarify what constitutes a conflict of interest? There may not be an easy solution.

  100. One thing you can be assured of with your members of Congress, if they're not rich when elected, they will be soon after.

  101. @I'e the B'y A lot of truth in that statement. I constantly question how some legislators amass millions of dollars in wealth on the salaries the are provided.

  102. @I'e the B'y, getting rich after-- through legitimate means lime books and speaking gigs-- is not really a problem. Let's focus on the potential for corruption while they're in office.

  103. @I'e the B'y - Right up until 2013, Congress was literally exempt from insider trading laws. They could (and often did) use secret and privileged information known by virtue of being a Congressmen to make investment decisions to enrich themselves and their families. Let that sink in for a minute. The corruption and entitlement are staggering.

  104. When President Harry Truman left office there wasn't a pension provided at that time, and he was not independently wealthy. He was offered many times a position on company boards of directors with an annual $100,000 sum, but refused those offers. Truman also refused speaking fees. Truman finally secured an income from writing his memoirs.

  105. @Pat Boice Truman, they say, also used his own stamps on his personal letters. That's the kind of president we need.

  106. The difference: McConnell and Chao are active politicians, Hunter Biden is not.

  107. @Grey No, but his father, who used his influence to arrange the deals, certainly was.

  108. @Stratman There is no evidence that Joe Biden arranged any of these deals. It seems pretty clear that those working w/ Hunter Biden HOPE that forging a connection to Joe Biden will benefit them - which Hunter surely knew. That's very different than Joe Biden being involved. (Indeed, to take the Ukraine issue: seeking the removal of a corrupt prosecutor in favor of a fair-minded one would not tend to protect Burisma and its owner - quite the opposite.)

  109. @Stratman What's yet unknown is who Joe overrruled in giving Ukraine $1 billion of OUR money vs. just $500 million? Or...who he overruled in the Defense Dept. who wanted a more forceful stand against China in the South China Sea? Or...who he overuled in the ATF and FBI who wanted tougher crackdowns on couterfeit products and fetanyl flooding US markets? Or..who he stepped on who was trying to get sanctions imposed for clear Intellectual Property violations? In hindsight, we've never seen the U.S. be more passive towards China and now it starts to become clear on why. Like most of you, I had no idea Obama outsourced his China and Ukraine management and oversight decisions to Biden. I thought Obama made these decisions.

  110. Although I agree with the premise here that we need a law curtailing influence peddling among powerful politicians, Mr. Schweizer has buried the lead here and confused the issue. He starts with Hunter Biden's profiting off his father's position, but then goes on to detail the McConnell Choas profiting which far outstrips Hunter Biden's. And also did not directly enrich Joe Biden! The two are both bad but the latter is far more egregious and directly enriched Mitch and his wife. Why start with Joe Biden, the lesser of the two? Also, Mr. Schweizer says Biden should be investigated even though he states clearly that what Hunter did was not illegal. He seems to be muddying the waters here between two unrelated issues; one, the profiting from ones powerful family members and, two, meddling in Ukraine's internal politics to protect your self interest (something Joe Biden is clearly NOT guilty of). Although I agree that a version of the corrupt practices act needs to be passed for domestic influence peddling, let's not suggest that Joe Biden is guilty of what Trump has accused him off. He simply isn't. Period.

  111. @Paul I like how Dems get defensive of corruption of their own -- they give up the spirit of it and then stick to the letter. Thus hypocrisy is what makes corruption continue in US forever as partisan ways don't help. Btw, Joe Biden lying is not a big deal either - you will defend it saying Trump is worse!

  112. @Sri I'm not defending Joe Biden. I said that helping to get his son a job is wrong and should be legislated. What I was trying to point out is that given the accusations against Biden by the president, this article muddies the waters and seems to conflate two separate issues. What Biden and McConnell (and many others) did is not illegal and probably should be. What Trump has accused him of simply never happened.

  113. A distinction between the Bidens and the Chaos that the author glossed over: Hunter does not seem to have given any of the wealth that he gained through his father's connections to his father, while Mitch and his wife received a sizeable "loan" from her father -- money that he received apparently through his connections to his influential son in law. Backdoor influence peddling indeed.

  114. As it turns out, the best decision one can make to advance a private business is to take on a partner who works in the government. Either change the laws or teach this technique in business school.

  115. It is hard to swallow that the glaring nepotism and corruption usually assigned to former communist regimes are alive and well among our elected officials. Biden, McConnell and Chao have been in government for decades, plenty of time for anyone to become complacent, if not corrupt. The Trump tribe is aggressively seizing the moment to blatantly enrich themselves knowing from the beginning this ride is not going to last long. I lived is a former communist country that installed pseudo term limits (after serious grumbling from their base). Officials elected one another from one position to another, giving the false perception that no one was holding their position forever, except for the party leader. In the meantime, they secured positions for their siblings, wives and children. Please someone explain the difference between that and what has been going on in Washington for the past 200 years. In summary, power and greed continue to run the show. Fighting to protect our power to vote and establishing term limits are the main solutions to this established pattern of corruption.

  116. This is a rare issue where Republicans and Democrats actually share equal blame. For years, prominent politicians' families have held lucrative positions for which they are obviously not qualified, and simply sell access. But the problem extends beyond the families and goes straight to the politicians themselves as well. I voted for Hillary in 2016 because I'm not nuts, but I really had to hold my nose to do it. Yes Trump and his family are as corrupt as the day is long, but there is no reason in the world why a former president and his wife should be able to amass a quarter of BILLION dollars in personal wealth after leaving office, when their entire resume outside of politics is just that they were a couple of decent lawyers. That's why the Goldman Sachs speaking engagement criticisms against Hillary were so effective; because they were based in reality. And this is why an anti-corruption crusader like Liz Warren could be a much more effective candidate than Hillary ever was.

  117. So, given the emollients clause is being ignored by Trump, and he has refused to divest himself from his business, this would appear to also disqualify him from the office, as the nature of his business, he, his sons and his family are profiting every day from Trump's position, while ensuring future business, ie. what business interests of this family are currently being honed with foreign powers to include Russia, Saudi Arabia, China, etc. Another law to be ignored unless it prohibits the actions beforehand ---- not to be litigated at a later date.

  118. @Robin Emollient = Moisturizer Emoluments = Profit

  119. Good luck with this. Trump has shown that laws don’t apply to the POTUS, and Moscow Mitch has shown that anything can be squashed if the party controlling either House wants to stop it.

  120. What I read here is necessary, but not sufficient. We need a clear explicit constitutional basis to enact such laws, or self serving interests will seek to overturn them. Witness Citizens United, or Furgeson (sp?) We also need a politically independent enforcement arm. Witness the current Justice Department. Again, I think that this should be given a legal basis in the constitution. Personally, I believe that separating the prosecution arm of the Justice Dept. from other functions might help. Thirdly, I think it is important that all federal officials above a certain level (and state officials as well) disclose not only financial dealings, but other dealings that may cause conflicts of interest, for example unpaid advisory activities. Finally, we need a legal basis to track and limit all forms of influence peddling. Again, this needs to be given a constitutional basis. Right now, it is clear that anyone with sufficient means and a sufficiently long horizon, can manipulate the legal system by exploiting gaps in the constitution.

  121. @Anthony Tedesco I am in agreement to a point. First, who would investigate and prosecute any violations and who could or could not be prosecuted (keep in mind Trump believes he and his minions to be above the law); Second, would Congress exempt themselves of any statute or constitutional basis. Noble suggestions that possibly will fall on deaf ears.

  122. seems being on the board of directors is a good gig. I can go to an occasional meeting. I can do an occasional conference call. where can i sign up?

  123. In other news today, startling revelations that family members all over the world have been helping one another. It seems that unbeknownst to the rest of us, young people with well off families, and raised near the halls of power can gain access to those halls of power more easily than young people in middle class or lower families. The nation is astonished, and now people are beginning to wonder when it started.

  124. We do have the most blatant example going on right now. trump's daughter and her husband are in the WH. It is reported that they earned $82 million this year alone. trump is using his properties to drawn money from the government by getting the military and pence to stay at his properties. Many of his actions relate to his direct profit than for the benefit of American citizens. Kushner receives visitors at the WH who lend him money for his troubled real estate holdings. This is not the nation's business. It is only benefits the trumps. Many politicians have also made money while in office. They became rich through their power and left as wealthy people. This is not service to the country!

  125. The world is awash in so much money it seems that it takes even more chutzpah to get more than you are worth. Add to that the lack of moral fiber present in all people in the public eye and yes, Houston, we have a problem. The US with its claim to meritocracy seems to really lean into deals that smell whether they are illegal or not. Hunter Biden is not in public office. On the other hand, McConnell and Chao most definitely are and yet act with impunity and their roles in Chinese relations are surely in need of some investigation.

  126. This is definitely a problem. The other problem is that a large portion of the electorate thinks Trump is the antidote and the solution. Our democracy is in serious trouble.

  127. Things like this make me despair of US politicians on both sides. I do not like Pres. Trumps actions in the Ukraine affair, but the Hunter Biden actions make it hard to criticize Trump.

  128. @David Tarbell What is your opinion of the nepotism and self-dealing by Trump and his family? Biden may be small potatoes in comparison. It appears the Trump gaslighting program is becoming successful in deflecting attention.

  129. Politicians and their families expect to feed off the trough of goodies available to them, whether they come from domestic or overseas entities. Any reform needs to curtail this practice both here and abroad. For example, no working in industries for 5 years that you've had oversight for while being a member of Congress. Reform, in order to work, will have to be far reaching and comprehensive. Politicians aren't going to give up their bling easily.

  130. This wasn't criminal or illegal or "corruption" per se, but in my view it disqualifies and dishonors Joe Biden. I'm sorry to be effectively supporting Trump on this, but it doesn't justify or excuse his own corrupt and illegal efforts to relaunch an investigation against a political opponent.

  131. I share your disgust. But joe can redeem himself by pledging to fix the problem. Why hasn’t he?

  132. Maybe a law is not the answer. Maybe more investigative reporting from ALL the media would stem this tide. Interesting that the Fox nighttime pit bulls are accurately on this story which they then take to absurd and false extremes. One other thing they are correct on also is the lack of coverage in "the liberal left wing press."

  133. I welcome this balanced spotlight on political corruption, whether by Mitch or Hunter. Communist China seeks to dominate even the NBA. Republicans and Democrats are guilty of betraying freedom for monetary gain. We need a bipartisan effort to enact the legislation proposed by the author.

  134. The USA is involved approximately everywhere in the world, and people have no legal control of their relatives in the USA. We do have anti-nepotism rules to prevent hiring relatives with public funds. The Trumps engage in nepotism, but the Bidens did not. The best we can really hope for seems to be to set up a disclosure and recusal process. Since the VP has very little official authority of any kind, there is little real risk for policy being manipulated through a VP. Similarly, a single member of Congress rarely has so much power on his or her own, though it does happen. That is a bigger concern than a VP. If people from a corrupt country cannot fathom the idea of an honest government or honest government official, they might waste their money thinking they have bribed someone that matters when they have not. It might be asking too much to expect people to turn such a windfall down, but this is not the same as allowing that money to influence government. If people are instead simply trading on their fame, there is really no harm done to the American public.

  135. East money knows no party. You're absolutely right about Hunter Biden, and even on just a practical level, his father should have seen the red flags as it might affect him. Hillary's people should have cautioned her against the Goldman Sachs speeches, or, maybe they did and she brushed it off. They would come to haunt her during the entire campaign, and please forget the canard about how she didn't know she was going to run for President when she made them; she was running for President practically from conception. The McConnell's certainly make acute couple. I wonder if they've ever been alone in the same room together except to discuss money laundering? While Mitch's fortune mushroomed, Kentucky remained mired near bottom in every indicator of social well being. You would think this might make Kentuckians upset, but apparently, they just think its a case of "local boy makes good.". Hopeless.

  136. Try, just try, to get this Congress to pass anything like the proposed legislation. Or, for that matter, much of anything else.

  137. Oddly enough, the author makes no mention of the Trump children running a multi-national corporation. The potential for foreign quid pro quo, bribery, and extortion is as high in multi-national corporations as in foreign-based corporations. Indeed, Ivanka Trump tweeted about Turkey’s reception for Trump Towers Istanbul on thee same day Trump caved in to Erdogan. As with all potential conflicts, the first step is required disclosure. Knowing that Trump, McConnell, Chao, or Biden might be conflicted about decisions involving their children’s or spouse’s enterprises will enable Congress and the people to question the wisdom of the decision.

  138. Will a "Washington Corrupt Practices Act" prohibit political families from self-dealing, Mr. Schweizeer? Foreign influence and self-enrichment by political families should be anathema in America, but isn't. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 holds no water. Under president Trump and his loyalists "offshore" corruption is undeniably widespread. "Offshore" corruption is the path to personal enrichment taken by Senate Leader Mitch McConnell's family and Hunter Biden, Vice President Joe Biden's son. A wink and a nod okays this engregious self-serving by American politicians' families in foreign countries? Legislation (by whom?) of a "Washington Corrupt Practices Act" won't make a whit of difference.

  139. @Nan Socolow Explain why you think this is worse under Trump.

  140. First, how can the behavior of foreign companies be bound to US law? (Hint: They can't, so long as they don't do business in the US.) Second, why stop with spouses and children of politicians? Why not nieces, nephews, second cousins, parents, grand-parents and so forth out to the 5th or 6th degree of relation? Why not "friends" and acquaintances as well? (Hint: Because essentially everyone would be subject to financial disclosure, which would be intrusive).

  141. @Dana Broach Excellent point. This article seems to suffer from the "I don't like it so make it illegal" mindset.

  142. I commend the brilliance of this article's timing, which will serve to muddy the waters just a bit more amid an ongoing national constitutional impeachment crisis. Bravo on your moral stand. Truly, are not the Bidens of the world the root of our most immediate problems? You do Trump's work for him.

  143. @DeepThud - What's to muddy? Hunter needs to let go of daddy's hand and get a real job, and Trump is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors. I can understand both concepts concurrently.

  144. We are now living through a period of anarchy, where the concept of the rule of law is being questioned by a White House, ably supported by 40% of the country. I suggest that we wait and see how this works out before we envisage new laws directed at holding the executive of this country to account.

  145. It is refreshing to read a column in the NYT that goes beyond "nothing illegal was found" in the case of the Bidens and a description of the extent of self-enrichment by the McConnell-Chaos. These are two obvious cases, the tip of the iceberg and thoroughly bi-partisan. Hunter Biden has benefited from his father's connections throughout his student days, his brief military career, as an earmarks lobbyist for the church, his board seat on Amtrak and the Ukraine/China largesse. The McConnell-Chaos are more obvious using their positions in government to reap rich rewards and further their power in the Republican Party. Government service, elected, appointed, or stumbled into is a gravy train our officials prefer to remain lost in the shadows. There ought to be a law - Oh, that would be asking too much from those who reap millions while no one is paying attention.

  146. Democrats best bet here is to 1. Get rid of Biden. Too much baggage now, plus he would not make an effective president. 2. Campaign on a law that stops this kind of malfeasance, while simultaneously highlighting similar behavior by Trump, McConnell, etc. Clearly they’re engaging in the very practice they’re attacking Biden over. 3. Officially start the impeachment proceedings because of Trump’s obstruction. Clearly the proof is there; there’s no reason to act like this is questionable, which, in turn, undermines congressional legitimacy not to mention making the Democrats look spineless (as usual)

  147. @Eric I'm not s Biden supporter for the nomination, but your #1 point indicates that the trolling/disinformation campaign worked. We cannot allow the death-by-insinuation to succeed. On that basis, I must disagree with you. If the Biden campaign decides to leave the race, it should be their decision. DJT and the GOP have triumphed far too often by gaslighting their opponents, and the country. We must stand up to it.

  148. Politicians go into politics to self promote and self deal. I've seen this up close over and over again as I considered going into elective politics as a young lawyer which is why I backed away and declined. Policy, patriotism, and service were distant second goals. Most had outsized egos to believe they had that something special to lead others and didn't seem normal. It was all about partitioning out the goods, being a broker of competing financial interests, and inducements to go a certain way in deciding was standard, almost expected. Bribers were rare; instead it was participation in deals. For this new law to work there needs to be term limits and a blanket law of no self or family or friend dealing of any kind, period. Given that money in politics is not just a given but desired per decisions like Citizens United, it can not work as is. So publicly finance elections and cease with the idea that donations are protected free speech. Just as one cannot shout fire in a crowded theater, public policy should acknowledge another "speech"exception and disallow cash of any kind. That won't happen. America is now late stage Rome.

  149. @AG Yes. Just look at the Obama’s with their book deals and Netflix contract. They became millionaires while in the White House.

  150. Okay, if this is true, we should disqualify both Trump and Biden from occupying government offices. And, at the minimum, Mitch McConnell, and whomever else is becoming millionaires thanks to their connections. Will the corruption never end? Maybe we do need a tax on the rich. Spread the wealth to those who have no chance to get in on the pot of gold. Go Elizabeth Warren!

  151. @CLee What about Bush,Cheney clans?

  152. Let's also add that ex-members of Congress and former political appointees are not allowed to participate in consulting activities that benefit from their previous job.

  153. I think President Trump's campaign to destroy the leading contender for the Democratic nomination is succeeding. Based on the article, rightly so. Here's to Elizabeth Warren's nomination, and her selecting a VP from among the many fine Democrats either running for President now or who will step up soon enough.

  154. @Ben: and it should completely disqualify Trump, but sadly his supporters seem to have lost their sense of smell.

  155. Tax returns of public officials and those of their first degree relatives (spouses and children and parents) ought to be in the public record. In Scandinavian countries, everyone's tax returns are public. We should be able to tell in detail where these folks' income is coming from so we can prevent this kind of legal bribery of our officials.

  156. That a law is needed is certainly correct. But let's get precise about what should be prohibited. Should, for example, a family be prohibited from working overseas on behalf of a family foundation, like the Clinton Foundation which has done a lot of good at home and abroad? Sure the Clinton Foundation became a political football but does that make it a prohibited activity? If Hunter Biden were working for the Ukrainian Red Cross (he wasn't) should that be prohibited? What do you do about the Chao family, forbid them from being Chinese? Clearly, the present arrangements are ugly but what precisely do we prohibit? In any such legislation the devil is in the details. I look forward to reading a practical proposal. Disclosure: I write this as someone who, after retirement from a government job, was selected to serve on the board (no salary) of a non-profit, incorporated in a foreign country, dedicated in large measure to the promotion of education and the environment.

  157. Major problem is prohibiting behavior because of someone else is based upon an irrefutable presumption that the actor is engaged in corrupt behavior. One size does not fit all.

  158. @TBS: No, this is about avoiding the appearance of corruption. This is an important principle in many spheres and therefore good to apply to politics.

  159. @Andrew It was a governing principal of good behavior in public positions, or so I once thought. @ tbs: some behavior can be absolutely prohibited to those in specified because it sets up conflicts of interest. Those who "serve" in government should assume a fiduciary role, in that the client is the public, and the fiduciary serve's only the public's interests.

  160. @cheryl : Is that fair to the child of a politician?

  161. In order to stop this type of corruption, or the corruption that is the revolving door between government and corporations, or the legalized bribery that is the foundation of our country's campaign finance system, you would need to change one very pervasive and basic belief of the elite. The CEO class (the .1%), and the upper-level managers and politicians who serve them (probably the top 5 or 10% of earners) all believe that they are endowed with intellect, and have developed skills that make them quite special and rare, far above "ordinary people". If the elite do allow themselves to see the corruption in what they do to maintain their enhanced lifestyle, they rationalize it away just as easily as an ambulance driver rationalizes running a red light in an emergency. This is why, although a Bush, or a Gates, or an Obama might speak eloquently about the need to address inequality, they'll never do anything substantive to address it. Why should they? The current level of inequality looks grotesque to the sentient, non-elite among us, but to the elite, it's just the natural order of things. The media play a peculiar role in this. One the one hand, they have to act like, for instance, there is no quid pro quo in campaign donations - but on the other hand they must, as the author of this editorial did, address the inescapable fact that these everyday actions of the elite are indeed, corruption.

  162. I once met a recently appointed assistant secretary of Commerce over a drink at the DC 4 Seasons. He wore velvet loafers. I looked him up online and realized as he was in the process of being confirmed, his wife set up an overseas trading company to profit from his experience. And everyone who was confirming him knew it and asked about it. It's public record.

  163. This article cuts to the heart of corrupting practices which have been tolerated -- even embraced - by politicians for too long. What's more these ties influence their behavior: we know that something as inconsequential as providing free luncheons can influence Dr.s ( to prescribe the meds being touted). How much more does the prospect of huge amounts of untracked cash influence decision making? What is also needed to reduce theinfluence of big money on politicians is total campaign finance reform. Most Americans regard politicians as crooked unless proven otherwise. It saps faith in democratic institutions; it justifies all the crooked deals at local levels which crush hope for fairness in government. I guess, it's time for a Government Reform Movement: perhaps that is the one "gift" from Trump: his compete outrageousness might goad more people to rebel against this culture. Isn't it bitterly ironic that the ostensive purpose of our emissaries to Ukraine was to wean THEM from endemic corruption?

  164. nurses and physicians in New York, Vermont, and Massachusetts and many other states are not allowed to even take a pen, drink, or meal at a scientific meeting for fear that such a gift would cloud thinking and/or judgment. you lose your job. as strict a law as exists for health care professionals needs to be wrought upon the political class. such egregious corruption seems worse as the same politicians give lip service to a democratic ideal that they have forsaken including working for their constituents who may be too stressed making ends meets to notice. Maybe Mark Twain needs to be amended and it is politics, more than religion, that may be the last and ultimate refuge of a scoundrel.

  165. According to the New Yorker magazine, Hunter Biden has been in and out of rehab for over a decade. The most recent "rehab" occurred in 2016. Not mentioning this reality in the article to the left was gutsy. I think Joe Biden needs to distance himself from the boy (sic) or drop out of the race.

  166. @Ben Graham`s Ghost So, inform us as to how the story about rehab would have any bearing on the possibility of using power and influence. Grasping at straws.

  167. Legal only because he is the son of Joe Biden and because he is a Democrat, a member of the political opposition. Had Donald Trump's sons and son-in-law engaged in similar practices it would be the end of the world. It all depends on your perspective, your politics, your hypocrisy, your morals, your ethics. Thank you.

  168. Dear Southern Boy, I think you and others fail to see the gravity of the president’s actions. Trading domestic money for political favors that would be used in a political campaign and there are laws against this, while the rules for influence peddling are vague nd unclear, as the writer of this ARTICLE points out. Please read the article again. While the writer fails to conclude anything about Trump’s action to route out dirt on Biden and his son, that is not the current issue. So the guilt or innocence of Biden family is the excuse now and not the issue. Trump used his office to trade political information on his competition and used the budget allotted for foreign aid as a cudgel. And so not matter what the Biden’s of the MaConnells have done in the past along with all the other influential folks. It is not the issue right now. Democrat and Republicans and most Americans, should not allow these kind of deals to go unpunished.

  169. @Southern Boy Indeed, on YOUR perspective. Trumps sons and son in law have and are presently engaging in thing you have no knowledge about and make Biden's son pale in comparison. The little Trumps are in so deep they don't dare appear in public.

  170. @Southern Boy had they engaged? Thats all they do, openly, daily. No one has arrested them.

  171. Maybe I missed it, but I've yet to see an in-depth investigatory piece on Jared, Don, Jr. Ivanka and Eric, who appear to be using the Trump presidency to do big-money deals all over the world. In Kushner's case, it appears that Grifter altered foreign policy to facilitate a fat loan to Kushner from a foreign entity. If it was wrong for Hunter Biden to get a job because his dad was vice president, I'm sure that the Trump youngsters have done much more wrong, and it's happening now, not in the distant past.

  172. "Last month, the House Oversight and Reform Committee started an investigation into whether Secretary Chao has leveraged her government positions to benefit her family. But so far there is no investigation into Joe and Hunter Bid". It appears there are different standards for democrats and republicans. And if you happen to be a republican president demanding that the son of a presidential contender be investigated you become the subject of an "impeachment inquiry".

  173. @tim k Perhaps Joe and Hunter are not currently in the employ of the government and Chao and Mitch are could have some bearing?

  174. @tim k (1) The House Oversight committee is tasked with oversight of the federal government, in which Secretary Chao holds a leadership position. They aren't tasked with investigating people who also happen to be related to former elected officials. (2) If an American president wants anything investigated, they look to their Department of Justice to do it. Not a foreign power. That's what the FBI is for. The comparison is way off base.

  175. @tim k Really? The Trump children, Ivanka in particular and Trump himself have gained a ton from foreign governments and companies since he became POTUS. Right here, the Trump hotels and resorts get 'picked' for events and stays much more frequently by foreign dignitaries after he became President. Have you heard the word hypocrisy? Very likely not. Moreover, I did not see Trump criticizing Chao or McConnell for the same. So when you go after your political opponent when you and your party's politicians now in power do far worse things is highly worthy of impeachment inquiry.

  176. This is why we elected Trump. He knows he has enough so he donates his salary, and he is not benefiting financially by being president more than he would have otherwise. One cannot say the same for most Democrats who did nothing more than community activism before sitting in congress and destroying what hard working Americans built up.

  177. How can you make that statement without seeing his tax returns? Do you REALLY believe that the Trump clan-- as part of the White House-- are not benefiting from their connections? Remember, this is a crowd that is forbidden to run a charity organization because they used the "donations" for their own use. I am not defending the Biden's behavior. But not matter what the Bidens did or did not do it does not make Trump honest.

  178. @James Tallant I don't care to see his tax returns. The reason I believe Trump's not as corrupt as any Democrat is because he, like most Republicans, was successful before running for office. One cannot say the same for most Democrats except for the rich one's who feel guilty for some reason. Most Democrats these days did not create anything and are not trying to protect any wealth generating mechanism. Instead, they are trying to tear wealth generation down and benefit from it in the process by redistributing the wealth as though that's virtuous or even fair. Incomes are not distributed, they are voluntarily agreed upon. What is not voluntary is redistribution, and I can see how someone who has not earned a living first would be attracted to redistribution AND corruption; corruption being just another form of redistribution.

  179. As much as I like the wordplay, might the phrase “the Chao family” have worked better than to refer to them as Chaos. The latter sounds like a Bond movie evil group.

  180. The House Democrats passed a campaign finance and government reform bill earlier this year. Just the kind of bill that would help prevent nepotism in our political system. It's being blocked by the Mitch McConnell and the Republican Senate. Conservatives aren't interested in reform or good government. It would go against their brand.

  181. There is the consideration of the "appearance of impropriety" in both cases. Civil servants in Washington, I believe ,cannot accept a gift from a foreign entity worth more than about $50 in value. That's why it's easier to trust the civil servants ...the underlings...who have actually been doing the work down there for years over the politicians.

  182. Just because something is legal does not make it ethical or right. What Hunter Biden did in Ukraine and China appear to be unethical. The fact that his father did not guide his son to behave otherwise shows that he approved of this conduct. Hunter would not have gotten the positions he had in either Ukraine or China if he were not Joseph Biden's son. This is the way things work in our world - it does not make them right... Nor does exposing them make the one exposing them wrong - unless they use bribery and/or coercion to do so. And that is what Trump has blatantly done – and he appears proud of it. So, which is the greater of the two evils? The President’s abuse of his authority and power are clearly the more egregious of the two and he needs to be called to account. The gaming of the system by Hunter and the approval of that gaming by his father is a systemic problem that we as a society should work on correcting wherever it is possible. BUT the fact that most people are not in positions to take advantage of their parent’s prestige and may therefore be outraged by this fairly common type of phenomenon, in no way should be used to excuse Trump’s flagrant abuse of power. Trump’s use of his position to promote his personal self interest at the expense of the nation’s best interest is more than ample reason to remove him from office.

  183. @Mark Mark, how exactly is Joe supposed to prevent his *adult* son from taking a job? We're talking about a person with drug and other issues, and we don't know the intimate details of the family dynamic. If VP Biden pressured Ukraine to *not* give his son the job, how would that not be an overt misuse of his position? This kind of thing goes on all the time at all economic levels. The author is correct in suggesting that some kind of reporting system might help in the case of government officials, but let's get off the moral high horse and be pragmatic...we have lots more serious problems than this.

  184. @arty You miss the whole point of my post. I plainly said that this is the way the world works - that does not make it right or ethical. I obviously agree with you that we have lots more serious problems than this – the fact that Trump is President is one glaring example – again, plainly stated in my post. Whether or not Joe Biden could have stopped it is not something I am here to debate. The fact that Joe did not prevent Hunter from taking these positions does not make him any worse than most other human beings who are happy to see their children succeed… unfortunately for Joe, however, regardless of the fact that we “have lots more serious problems than this”, this adds to the argument of Trump and his supporters that “the left” has done what (in their eyes) is “far more serious”.

  185. An opinion piece without an obvious political bias? What is this world coming to? Great article pointing out the fact that political profiteering is not a "red team" or "blue team" problem; it is an American political system problem.

  186. The Democratic Party should own this issue. It is maybe he only issue that huge majorities from both parties support. And it is their natural “home turf.” 1. The Biden family’s ties to what are basically corrupt (lower case) practices resonates of the Clintons. We should not allow the Republicans to use this issue; we need a clean candidate. 2. The Democratic Party needs to build the foundation of its platform on Cleaning up Corruption and getting money out of politics.

  187. People can't violate laws that don't exist, nor can such non-existent laws be enforced. What Peter Schweizer is referring to is far from uncommon when it comes to self-regulation and the conflicts of interest involved. In fact, the following is an excerpt from my article titled Start Protecting The Public Before Raising State Bar Fees: "The [California] State Bar fulfills 'its critical public protection functions' by disciplining 'attorneys who violate rules and laws.' Here's the rub. In the absence of rules and laws critically needed for public protection, the State Bar can't enforce them and discipline attorneys for violating them. You may now be asking why [rules and laws requiring lawyers to inform their clients of non-litigation options for resolving their disputes] don't exist. I'm afraid the answer is that the Bar and the majority of its members don't want such rules and laws. Therefore, the Bar and its members not only fail to advocate for the establishment of such rules and laws, but they oppose any such efforts by others. Unfortunately, such opposition has also involved judges and justices. So, does the State Bar satisfy its purported mission to protect the public? Yes, but only to the degree it can. However, it can and should do so much more in that regard and can't because the public protection mission is mostly about optics in the absence of much needed rules and laws in that regard."

  188. Congress is unlikely to institute a law that restricts their ability to grab more for themselves. Politician's spouses, siblings, and offspring have been pedaling their proximity to power and influence for centuries. The only way to change this is through a direct vote of the people, and we don't have that option in our "representative democracy".

  189. We used to be able to rely on the character and integrity of a person to understand correct behavior. No more. Now we have to call for laws so politicians will be forced to do what most Americans understand as simply the right thing to do. You'd think that would make us choose our politicians more carefully, but it does not.

  190. "But lawmakers set the system up this way for a reason; they will not stop the foreign cash influence game voluntarily. " And yet the author seems to believe lawmakers will voluntarily create a Domestic Corrupt Practices Act? How do you say "NAIVE"?

  191. Finally, someone mentions Ms. Chao's connection to China, and its influence on both her decisions and Mitch McConnell's. I've suspected it for years. It's refreshing to see it mentioned here. In a cynical moment you could say that the Russians own the presidency and the Chinese own the Senate. Angela and James Chao might have their board seats because of their family's position and wealth as much as their connection to American politics. The children of industrialists who remain in the family industry often end up on boards with others who had to work half their lives to get there. Wealthy and powerful people tend to work with each other; that's going to be a tough web to untangle.

  192. Don’t overlook the “Russian-> NRA” connection to the Corrupt-Lican Senators. Russia has their hands all over the WH and the Senate.

  193. I hope no readers are confused and think that this is somehow connected to Trump's recent crimes, in pressuring the president to Ukraine for political assistance in the upcoming elections. Remember, Trump didn't just demand dirt on the Joe Biden, he also wanted dirt on the American company CrowdStrike, another political enemy. CrowdStrike pointed to the role of Russia in Trump's 2016 victory, a role Trump still likes to deny. It's obvious that Trump was concerned with his own political enemies, not with any new-found critical thinking about nepotism. As long as no-one thinks it relates to Trump's call to Zelensky, this might be an interesting article in its own right. Of course, you have to wonder why the Trump family is left out; they would be a much better example of high level nepotism than the relatively small-scale Bidens.

  194. @John Bergstrom Then you should know the investigation was under way before the phone call.

  195. The main difference between corruption in third world countries, including dictatorships, and corruption in the USA is that corruption in the former is more transparent.

  196. Another commenter mentioned a Scandinavian-style system of full transparency. That would be more helpful than any set of watered down anti-corruption laws. My fellow citizens should have the right to know exactly where my money comes from, and how much I pay in taxes. Such a system lets the sun shine in. Unfortunately most laws are written to keep the sun out. Lawmakers seem to enjoy the shade.

  197. Bribery or improper influence of American officials by a foreign enterprise (via, for example, hiring the official's child to do work for which they are not qualified) is not illegal under the FCPA. It is of course, illegal under the laws of the government under which the enterprise operates, which is why Trump had to ask Ukraine, not the US, to investigate. When this whole thing is done, Biden is going to be hurt more than Trump.

  198. What's good for the goose is good for the gander. But in the American two party political system, that means the "What" is probably bad for both good government and the general Welfare of We the People.

  199. This subject is the cousin of the "Clean up the swamp" issue that Trump has flouted and, as noted by others, shares a name with campaign finance. This family of issues is all what separates the "them" of Washington elite from the "us" that are American citizens, and their inaction on our behalf. Congress has its own pension but--with a handful of exceptions--won't bother to defend the pensions of workers being eliminated by wealthy CEOs. They have their own health insurance and we've all seen how much most of them care if the rest of us have it. And it could be argued that they have their set of laws that give them far greater leeway that us mere mortals would never be allowed. All the while we've been watching Trump being rightfully investigated for his interactions with Russia, we've had to contend with the fact former President Clinton was paid $500,000 for a speech in Russia while his wife had her own presidential ambitions, along with the $145 million went to the Clinton Foundation from interests linked to Uranium One. Swamps are noted for their murky waters. And while actual swamps are valuable ecosystems, metaphorical swamps provide only value to the political gators and snakes that make them so daunting. Drain the swamp? That doesn't go far enough. Bulldoze it over and exile its political inhabitants from both parties. But how to get that done when the Supreme Court has made these swamp creatures a protected species?

  200. The thing that’s missing here is a connection to a change in policy due to the family members’ business dealings. The charge against Joe Biden in this case seems to be without merit. As far as Chao and Moscow Mitch, who knows. You will never eliminate influence peddling in this world. It’s always greased the wheels of our relationships. Politicians should not take family members along on foreign trips where they have business interests. That shows a lapse in judgement by Joe. But again I think the standard here is - was policy effected to benefit his family? So giving Hunter a ride, bad idea. If he met with business leaders to discuss favorable policies that would benefit Hunter, that would’ve been bribery. No such connection seems to exist. But may be worth looking into, just to be fair. In trumps case policy and personal interests mix with no boundaries. It’s really the essence of his dereliction of his duty to put the country’s interests first, and only. If he doesn’t all laws, traditions and, norms become meaningless. It is the recipe for autocracy.

  201. No society is a true meritocracy including our own. People do get rewarded selectively for hard work and accomplishments but most of the people at the top of any hierarchy in any system are there because of their influence. Some acquire it and some are born with it. But it is not a reward for doing a good job as our mythology claims.

  202. Of course what Hunter Biden did was legal. I am however, surprised that there has been no criticism of his actions by the liberal press. By contrast, when it was made public that members of the military stayed overnight at a Trump owned hotel, there was uproar in the press. Unfortunately, the criticism suddenly ended when it was revealed that the Obama Administration had cut the deal years earlier because the cost was lower than other comparable properties and the hotel was convenient. If it was wrong to use a Trump owned hotel, why did the criticism end?

  203. I thank the NYT for publishing this Opinion. I think this will help us move forward.

  204. When discussing Hunter Biden, let's not lose sight of the fact that this is also the guy who used his political connections to receive a rare age-waiver to join the Navy Reserve as an officer in his early 40s (and a waiver for the Navy to ignore past drug use), only to get kicked out of the Navy shortly after for testing positive for cocaine. Democrats shouldn't touch this spoiled brat with a 10 foot pole. If his reputation is a necessary casualty in the impeachment war, that's an ok price to pay as far as I am concerned.

  205. Trump has been in office for over 2.5 years, and you are just getting around to writing this op-ed now? It's the Trump clan that should be the poster children for this act, not Hunter Biden or Elaine Chao. You diminish the strength of your argument significantly with this omission.

  206. Funny—no mention here of the Trump family and Kushner family, let alone Trump himself profiting off of foreign cash. Strange that Exhibit A of rampant corruption is not even mentioned, much less blared in a headline with innuendos of sleaze.

  207. Your headline is so misleading. Surely the activities of the Trump children should have been included in the headline as well as covered in-depth in the op-ed. It is too easy for the casual reader to see this headline and make a snap judgement against candidate Biden, when the Trump children and in-laws have far surpassed any "influence and self-enrichment" done by Hunter Biden.