Obama’s ethics chief slammed the White House over Hunter Biden’s art sales, saying buyers could use them to gain influence with his dad

Hunter Biden paints in a studio, surrounded by works of art.
Hunter Biden with some of his artwork.

  • The Obama White House ethics chief Walter Shaub addressed Hunter Biden’s art sales.
  • He described them as a potential “vehicle for funneling cash to the first family” in exchange for influence.
  • The White House had dismissed questions about the art sales, and defended an arrangement to keep buyers’ identities secret.

Walter Shaub, who served as ethics chief in Barack Obama’s administration, has criticized the President Joe Biden’s White House for dismissing questions about Hunter Biden’s lucrative art sales.

Hunter Biden, the president’s son, is facing scrutiny for selling his paintings for between $75,000 and $500,000 apiece at a private New York gallery. Biden is not known as an artist and is not critically acclaimed, prompting questions abut the high price tags.

The White House has entered into an unusual arrangement with the gallery, whereby Hunter Biden is shielded by the gallery from knowing the identity of the buyers. The idea is that the arrangement will stop buyers from using their purchases to secure influence with the White House.

Shaub, who served as the head of Obama’s Office of Government Ethics, argued that this arrangement was ineffective because there are loopholes whereby Hunter Biden could become aware of the identity of buyers.

He also said that because buyers’ identities are not made public, it shields the sales from scrutiny, further muddying the transparency of the arrangement.

At a Wednesday press briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki brushed aside a reporter’s questions on the arrangement, saying “there’s lots going on in the world” as she sought to switch topics.

Shaub took issue with the response in a lengthy series of tweets.

“These are legitimate questions. It’s disappointing to hear [Psaki] send a message that the WH thinks the public has no right to ask about ethics,” he said.

“After the last 4 years, these questions have never been more important,” he said, referring to former President Donald Trump’s administration. “I know this isn’t a popular opinion, but this stuff matters.”

He said there were serious flaws with the arrangement, and “no ethics program in the world that can be built around the head of state’s staff working with a dealer to keep the public in the dark about the identities of individuals who pay vast sums to the leader’s family member for subjectively priced items of no intrinsic value.”

Walter Shaub
Walter Shaub.

Shaub went on to allege double standards in the Biden White House, highlighting Joe Biden’s campaign pledge to end the allegations of corruption that hung over the Trump White House.

“If this were Trump, Xi or Putin, you’d have no doubt whatsoever that this creates a vehicle for funneling cash to the first family in exchange for access or favors,” Shaub wrote, referring to the Chinese and Russian presidents Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin.

“It doesn’t matter that Trump was worse. What matters is that this sets a low bar for ethics. It embraces the mentality that ‘if it’s legal, it’s fine to do.'”

The White House, Hunter Biden’s attorney, and Hunter Biden’s gallery did not immediately comment to Insider’s request for comment on Shaub’s remarks.

Hunter Biden has long faced criticism, especially from Republicans, for seemingly seeking to profit from his father’s political status with his work for the Ukrainian gas firm Burisma and lobbying work in China.

Last month Insider’s Mattathias Schwartz reported that Hunter Biden had sought $2 million for helping to release assets in Libya frozen by the Obama administration, in which his father served as vice president.

His drug addiction and business dealings were also the subject of controversy during the 2020 presidential campaign, when material said to be from an abandoned laptop were published by the New York Post.

Biden said he started painting to work through his addiction and other issues in his personal life.

Read the original article on Business Insider