“It has nothing to do with me,” he wrote in 2011 about some of his developing connections with Chinese investors, “and everything to do with my last name.”
The blunt acknowledgment, in an email to his close friend and business associate Devon Archer, was a recognition of the built-in advantages the younger Biden had as he grew his Washington-based business. When he was building a new consulting firm during his father’s vice presidency, he — and particularly his partners — showed little hesitancy in using a coveted last name to open doors that could provide financial opportunity.
At times they would hand out books autographed by Joe Biden, emails and interviews show. They would provide vice-presidential cuff links or challenge coins to friends, associates or prospective clients. They secured tickets to White House events, including dinners, holiday parties and the annual Easter Egg Roll, at times strategizing over which business associates should receive them.
House Republicans have launched an impeachment inquiry attempting to show that Joe Biden improperly benefited from his son’s work or used his office to assist the younger Biden, and have subpoenaed Hunter and his uncle James Biden to testify next month. But they have not produced any direct evidence, and their own witnesses at one hearing said the impeachment threshold had not been met.
A Washington Post review of Hunter Biden’s career found no sign the family patriarch was an active participant in his son’s business efforts.
But interviews with former Hunter Biden associates, along with information drawn from congressional testimony and a review of emails found on a copy of Hunter’s purported laptop that have been authenticated by The Post, illustrate how the president’s son and his partners benefited from his last name. There is also limited evidence that the now-president asked his son to be careful or expressed qualms about how Hunter was wielding the name he made famous.
Hunter Biden’s legal team referred to past statements that he and his lawyers have made, including from his current lawyer Abbe Lowell, who has said that “Hunter Biden did not involve his father in, nor did his father assist him in, his business” and that “it’s been five years of investigations into Hunter Biden and his legitimate business activities, and still Republicans have nothing to show for it.”
The White House declined to comment.
Over the years, Hunter’s relationship with his own last name has been complex and even tortured. He has been proud of it, relied on it, benefited from it. But it has also invited burdens and scrutiny. And while his business life has been closely bound up with his father’s world, he has at times been protective of the Biden name and shied away from taking advantage too directly.
“We would come to him with ideas, and he would say all the time, ‘No, we’re not doing that. That’s too close to the edge,’” said one former business partner, speaking on the condition of anonymity to talk about private conversations. “He would say constantly, ‘The Biden brand is not mine to f— up.’”
For the second presidential election in a row, Hunter is expected to be a focus of the campaign. The president’s son has faced a multiyear criminal investigation, resulting in charges related to a gun purchase and more charges potentially to come on tax issues.
These developments put Hunter’s business deals under renewed scrutiny and shine a spotlight on a business strategy that, as Archer recently testified, revolved around a central pillar: leveraging the Biden brand.
‘An abuse of soft power’
At first Hunter, after graduating from Yale Law School in 1996, pursued a relatively traditional career for an up-and-coming Washington lawyer.
He worked as a senior vice president at MBNA America. He joined the U.S. Commerce Department to focus on e-commerce policy. He was appointed to the board of Amtrak. He was a registered lobbyist and a founding partner of Oldaker, Biden and Belair.
By 2008, Hunter’s firm was thriving. He was sober, he had a $1.6 million home in Washington, and his three daughters were enrolled at Sidwell Friends School.
In his telling, all of that was abruptly derailed when Barack Obama chose Joe Biden as his running mate and imposed strict lobbying restrictions on family…