Does Hunter Biden’s art project put the president in an ethical corner? | Hunter Biden
IIt was another starry night in Hollywood. In a white-walled room at the Milk Studios art gallery, where a lone violinist performed in front of a projected animation, musician Moby, artist Shepard Fairey and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti reportedly mingled with around 200 guests.
Works of art combining canvas, yupo paper, wood and metal with oil, acrylic, ink and writing were on display. Organizers hope to sell up to half a million dollars, which is unusually high for an emerging artist. But then, this artist also happens to be the son of the President of the United States.
The potentially lucrative new career of Hunter Biden – he is represented by the Georges BergÃ¨s Gallery in New York, which attributes to him “powerful and impactful paintings ranging from photogenic to mixed media to the abstract” – presents headaches ethical for a White House that has promised to lead by example.
Experts have warned that individuals could purchase the works of art – which are expected to fetch between $ 75,000 and $ 500,000 – in an attempt to gain favor and gain influence from Joe Biden. They also accuse Hunter of exploiting his father’s name and position in a way that, without being illegal, violates ethical standards.
“I find this deeply disturbing,” says Walter Shaub, who was director of the Office of Government Ethics under President Barack Obama. âMerely following the insanely weak ethical rules that we have earns you no point and the legalistic approach blinds you to obvious common sense issues. And here we have an obvious problem.
âWe have a family member who clearly talks about his father’s name. The man has never sold a work of art before, has never even been on a jury in an art exhibition in a community center, but all of a sudden he is selling art to fantastic prices. It is simply impossible for anyone to pay $ 75,000 for anything other than their name. “
Biden has always been a staunch supporter of Hunter, 51, who has been the subject of controversy for years and whose tax cases are currently under investigation by the Department of Justice. Donald Trump’s attempts to arm Hunter’s issues for political gain in the 2020 presidential election fell flat.
Earlier this year, Hunter published a memoir in which he detailed his struggle with alcoholism and drug addiction and denied any wrongdoing by joining the board of directors of Burisma, a gas company in Ukraine, where he earned over $ 50,000 per month from 2014 to 2019. Again, he did not inflict political damage on his father as some feared.
But his latest activity, painting, could prove to be more complicated. Hunter said in an interview with the New York Times last year that he made it a hobby during his recovery from addiction and found solace in art when he was at the center of the trial. of Trump’s impeachment in 2019.
In July, he told the Nota Bene: This Week in the Art World podcast that art prices are “completely subjective,” insisting, “Look, man, I never set my prices – what my art was going to cost, how much or how much that would be the price to pay.I’d be amazed, you know, if my art sold for, uh, you know, for $ 10.
The sale of his work, however. appears to be a media narrative in a way that sinister right-wing conspiracy theories never have. Just as President Jimmy Carter’s younger brother marketed and sold “Billy Beer” in 1977, Hunter faces charges that he cashed in.
Shaub, now a senior fellow at the Project on Government Oversight watchdog, said: he is not in the public service and there may not be any law that applies to him, but he is a citizen whose father happens to be the ruler of the country and so he has a patriotic duty not to run around trying to take advantage of this relationship.
âOf course, he is not a criminal if he does not fulfill this duty, but neither is he a patriot. He’s not a man who cares about a country that has just gone through a four-year ethical nightmare. He sees a profit opportunity and says, âWell, you know, it’s legal. I’ll just do it. Who cares what this does to my country?‘”
Conflict of interest issues cast a shadow over the president’s efforts – who likes to promise “my word as Biden” – to show the world that America has turned the corner after constant allegations that business and Trump’s family have benefited from his office, including the appointment of his daughter and son-in-law to leadership positions in the White House.
Biden issued a memorandum establishing the fight against corruption as a fundamental national security interest. His administration responded to the Pandora Papers by promising to push for greater transparency in financial systems.
He sought to anticipate questions about Hunter’s art by making a deal, first reported by The Washington Post in July, under which gallery owner Georges BergÃ¨s would fix art prices and not reveal who bidding or buying it, as well as rejecting offers that seemed exorbitant.
But there is no mechanism to monitor the agreement. Critics say Hunter’s presence at the recent gallery event in Hollywood undermined claims that neither he nor the White House knew the identity of the buyers. And Garcetti, who was also in attendance, is Biden’s candidate to be the next U.S. Ambassador to India and a former national co-chair of his 2020 presidential campaign.
The issue was overlooked this week by Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary.
She told a journalist during the daily briefing: âIt is always the responsibility of the gallery owner. We still do not and will not know who is buying paintings. And the president remains proud of his son. When the reporter tried to follow up, Psaki abruptly intervened, “Do you have another question on something else?”
Shaub condemned his behavior as “surly” and described the deal to keep buyers anonymous as “an insult to our intelligence”. He explained, âAnyone who spends tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy art because it was created by the president’s son is going to be very open and vocal about the fact that he bought it. . This will be the centerpiece of the cocktails and this information will eventually come out. It’s a joke. “
Some commentators have argued that transparency will work better than secrecy, letting the public know whether a buyer such as a political lobbyist has paid an oddly high price. When the Guardian called Galerie Georges BergÃ¨s, they were told to send an email and did so, but received no response. When the Guardian called Milk Studios, which hosted the Hunter show, a man answered twice and hung up twice.
Ethics expert Kathleen Clark, a professor at the Washington University School of Law, has joined in criticism of the arrangement. âIt is truly unfortunate that Hunter Biden chose to attempt to make money in a way that is vulnerable to influence peddling.
âFrom now on, he is of age and the ethical standards which bind elected officials and civil servants do not apply directly to him. On the other hand, not all forms of paid work have this kind of vulnerability, but this kind of work does because it is so difficult to know exactly what a painting is worth.
The previous White House set the bar historically low, Clark added. “The Trump administration gave the impression that it was trying to be unethical, as if that was the goal, as if it was seeking some sort of championship bid in unethical conduct “even criminal. It’s not like that. But it could still be a disappointment when the Biden administration falls short of what it might do in terms of transparency, for example.”
Indeed, the scale and depth of the Trump scandals that captivated the media for four years may have partially shielded Biden and Hunter from scrutiny. A recent book on the Biden family by Politico reporter Ben Schreckinger presents evidence that some emails allegedly leaked from Hunter’s laptop regarding trade deals were genuine and not, as is commonly assumed, planted by the services. Russian intelligence.
Shaub suggested that many people are blind to the ethical problem of the work of art for two reasons. âOne is just the hyper-partisanship that has evolved in our country and so the people who voted for Biden are running around saying, ‘Well, that’s not as bad as Trump. “
“Of course, it’s not even as bad as Trump, but ‘better than Trump’ should never, ever become the norm in this country because it means, ‘I’m better than absolute worst than before. 2016, you could “I didn’t even conceive.
He continued, âThe second thing that blinds people is that there has been a lot of unfair slander against Hunter Biden by very well-funded political actors who were completely spurious in their ridiculous accusations. I guess it worked out well with their base, but it really clouded the issue, as the truth is, Hunter Biden isn’t the villain these political actors claim to be.
âBut he’s not the honest citizen the White House wants you to believe, either. He is a man whose whole life has been based on making money from his father’s political career and it is not something that we should accept in this country, celebrate and tolerate. So two things can be true at the same time.“
U.S. allies around the world have sought evidence from the United States that the country has stabilized in the aftermath of Trump’s presidency, Shaub said. âYes, we have a new administration that doesn’t thumb its nose at the rule of law, but it goes all the way and says, if it’s legal, we’re going to do it and we’re not doing it. We’re going to focus on reforms, we’re not going to focus on setting a clean tone, we’re going to go back to where it was before Trump.“