Hunter Biden has a history of using his family name to achieve undeserved economic success. The ethics chief for former President Barack Obama feels that Biden’s latest venture into the art world may be more of the same.
According to Fox News, former Office of Government Ethics director Walter Shaub has expressed his concern that Biden’s plan to sell his art for as much as $500,000 is corrupt.
“The notion of a president’s son capitalizing on that relationship by selling art at obviously inflated prices and keeping the public in the dark about who’s funneling money to him has a shameful and grifty feel to it,” he said.
On June 14, ArtNet.com reported that Biden had become a full-time artist and hired Georges Bergès as his art dealer. They added that Bergès is setting up a private art show for Biden this fall in Los Angeles, where the prices of his works will “range from $75,000 for works on paper to $500,000 for large-scale paintings.”
The idea that paintings by a man who just recently became a serious artist would immediately be worth up to $500,000 seems questionable, at best. Shaub said Hunter Biden’s last name may very well be contributing to the supposed value of his work.
“He can’t possibly think anyone is paying him based on the quality of the art,” Shaub said, according to Fox News. “This smells like an attempt to cash in on a family connection to the White House.”
As most people know, this is not the first time Biden has been accused of profiting from his father’s name. In 2019, Reuters reported that Biden came under criticism while he was a board member at Ukrainian-based company Burisma Holdings Ltd.
Trump accused Joe Biden of attempting to help Hunter profit from his position at Burisma, but Reuters said these accusations were “unsupported.” Even so, critics felt Hunter was ill-qualified for the position and that he was only brought on because of his recognizable family name.
While profiting from a family name may be ethically questionable, it is most likely not illegal. However, Shaub also raised other concerns about Biden’s new art career.
A major concern that Shaub described is that the buyers of Biden’s art will be able to remain anonymous, Fox News reported. He said this could open the door for “influence-seekers” to send money to the Biden family using Hunter’s art as a front.
“Just as hotel charges and real estate purchases created a risk of unknown parties funneling money to the Trump family for potentially unsavory purposes, Hunter Biden’s grotesquely inflated art prices create a similar risk of influence-seekers funneling money to the Biden family,” Shaub said.
While the swipe at the Trump family seems unnecessary, it is at least refreshing to see a former Obama staffer advocating for consistency in standards for different administrations.
Shaub said the American public “should not have to take it on blind faith that government officials will behave.” Instead, he wants Bergès to disclose the names of the buyers so that there is a lesser chance of them attempting to covertly influence the Biden administration.
Bergès himself is not free of scandals, either. In January 2021, the New York Post reported he had been arrested in 1998 and charged with assault with a deadly weapon.
He was also accused of making “terrorist threats,” but that charge was later dismissed. Bergès ultimately pled “no contest” to the assault charge and was forced to spend 90 days behind bars.
That was over 20 years ago, and it is certainly possible that Bergès has changed his ways and become a more upstanding citizen. However, it at least raises some red flags when two men once plagued by scandals are suddenly facilitating massive sales that could have further implications within the White House.
Nonetheless, an agency called The Townsend Group representing Bergès defended his right to keep the buyers of Biden’s art anonymous.
“Pricing fine art in his experiences as a Gallerist is based on the demand of the work as well and the intrinsic value of it,” they told Fox Business last week.
“His feeling is that within each piece – as with every artist, sales are always confidential to protect the privacy of the collector. This is standard practice for transactions in galleries as well as auction houses.”
The fact of the matter is this is not a “standard” situation. Art sales from two relatively shady individuals, one of whom is the direct descendant of the United States president, should be monitored more closely than any old run-of-the-mill art auction.
While there is no guarantee that any government influence will result from Biden’s large-scale art sales, the possibility is enough to raise concerns for an ethics expert like Shaub. That should cause every American some hesitation.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.