Not Just Hunter: Joe Biden's Brothers Used the VP for Financial Gain
The Democrats' impeachment against President Donald Trump has ironically highlighted the sleazy dealings of Hunter Biden, the youngest son of former Vice President Joe Biden. Hunter took a lucrative job at a Ukrainian gas firm while his dad was the Obama point man on Ukraine — and the VP pressured Ukraine to fire a prosecutor who was investigating that firm. As it turns out, the influence-peddling was not limited to Hunter.
A new NBC News expose revealed how Joe Biden's younger brother Frank seems to have used his brother's name to become the president and frontman for a charter school company. Frank Biden reportedly called his last name "a tremendous asset" and said it brought him "automatic acceptance" as he sought government approval for the company. Frank Biden did not respond to requests for comment from NBC News.
The former vice president's other brother, James Biden, is fighting a lawsuit that claims he feigned interest in a medical device company as a ploy to steal the company's business model. Plaintiffs claim James Biden said during investment negotiations that the firm’s "psychiatric care model would be used by Joe Biden as part of his campaign for President of United States."
A James Biden spokesman called the allegations "a seriously misleading version of the events," meant to "[take] advantage of Jim Biden’s public profile as the brother of a presidential candidate."
Frank Biden appears to have used his last name to prop up the Florida for-profit charter schools company Mavericks in Education. The charter schools aimed to educate at-risk teens with troubled backgrounds, but many claimed the schools were mismanaged. Mavericks faced two lawsuits alleging that the schools inflated enrollment in order to garner more government funding. The schools were eventually sold and reorganized under new management.
While he was involved with the company, Frank Biden boasted frequently about the value of his family ties. In a 2011 interview with The Washington Post, he said that thanks to his last name, "I enjoy automatic acceptance or at least listening to what I have to say." Mavericks press releases listed "brother of Vice President Joe Biden" as one of his credentials.
Frank Biden scored the job by chance, meeting the executive at a Starbucks in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., in 2009, shortly after his brother became vice president. Since charter schools are heavily regulated and depend on approval from local governments to operate, the VP's brother seemed the ideal pick to represent the schools. He worked to win over school board members who were responsible for approving charter school applications.
"Joe is my hero. My older brother is the best man I know," Frank Biden said during a 2016 promotional interview, adding, "Barack ain’t bad either, trust me."
"I think it would be safe to say that those charter schools that were associating with Frank were using the Biden name," Jim Pegg, former director of the charter schools department for the Palm Beach County school district, which added a Mavericks school when Biden was with the company, told NBC News. "They wanted that out front."
A former board member for a Mavericks school in Tampa said Frank Biden wore cufflinks bearing the presidential seal to meetings during one of the school's graduation ceremonies and Frank Biden "spoke about his brother and about how his brother was the vice president. It was all about his brother."
Joe Biden's campaign does not support funding for charter schools, but the former VP may have helped his brother in other ways.
Last November, Politico reported that Frank Biden seems to have enlisted his brother's help to ban the slaughter of horses for meat in 2013. The VP's brother was looking for state funding for Mavericks and lobbyist/state Senator Joe Abruzzo sat on a key appropriations board in the Florida legislature.
"I turned also to Frank and said, 'We may need a little help from the vice president and the administration talking to some senators,'" Abruzzo said in taped remarks months afterward.
Later in the video, Frank Biden says, "My brother's long-term relationships in the Senate proved to be the final nail in the coffin to be able to pull this thing forward."
While those involved now deny Abruzzo requested the VP's brother's help enlisting Joe Biden or that Frank Biden ever sought charter school funding from Abruzzo, the men scheduled a meeting to discuss "charter school funding" a month before Abruzzo started lobbying for the horse meat ban, according to emails obtained by Politico.
Joe Biden has repeatedly denied taking official positions to help family members, telling Politico that he maintained an “absolute wall” between their business dealings and his role as Barack Obama’s vice president.
Yet it seems more and more conflicts of interest have come to light. Hunter Biden is rightly the most notorious of the candidate's family members, but it seems he may be far from alone in profiting from his father's position.
Tyler O'Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.