According to government records, Joe Biden privately contacted the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice when he was a senior and influential U.S. senator to discuss issues that his son Hunter’s firm was being paid to lobby on.
On at least two occasions, Joe Biden contacted federal departments to discuss issues related to Hunter’s firm’s lobbying clients, according to records reviewed by the Washington Examiner.
Biden’s behind-the-scenes outreach illustrates how his Senate work overlapped with his son’s business interests. Biden has faced scrutiny for taking actions that were perceived to benefit his son’s work, including calling for the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor and backing policies that helped the Delaware-based credit card industry while Hunter was working for MBNA, which is headquartered in the state.
Government records show that Biden, who has always claimed he knows nothing about Hunter’s business activities, helped his son’s work with strategic and highly specific interventions that could have benefited his son to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars.
On Feb. 28, 2007, Joe Biden contacted DHS to express that he was “concerned about the Department’s proposed chemical security regulations authorized by Section 550 of DHS Appropriations Act of 2007,” according to the department’s log of its contacts with members of Congress.
Section 550, which was passed in 2006 as part of the DHS appropriations bill, requires high-risk chemical plants to submit site safety plans to DHS for approval, including security credentialing and training for employees.
Eight weeks earlier, the Industrial Safety Training Council had hired Hunter Biden’s firm to lobby DHS on the issue. The trade group, which represents companies that provide safety training for chemical facility employees, was mounting a heavy lobbying campaign over section 550, submitting congressional testimony about the need to expand background checks for chemical plant employees.
The Industrial Safety Training Council was seeking to expand the “language in DHS legislation regarding security clearance and credentialing for chemical facility employees and employers” in January 2007, according to lobbying disclosure records.
While Hunter Biden did not register as an individual lobbyist for the trade association, he was one of three senior partners in his firm at the time. The Industrial Safety Training Council paid Oldaker, Biden & Belair a total of $200,000 between early 2007 and the end of 2008.
The Biden campaign did not respond to request for comment. The National Legal and Policy Center, a government watchdog group, said Biden should have avoided involvement with issues that his son’s firm was also lobbying on because of the appearance of conflict.
“It’s implausible Sen. Biden did not know his son’s firm was lobbying on this arcane issue,” said Tom Anderson, the director of NLPC’s Government Integrity Project.
“Sometimes appearances are exactly what they are,” he said. “This is a recurring problem we’ve seen on the Hill, where family members are enriched because of their relationship with a member.”
Biden also sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Jan. 31, 2007 requesting a meeting with the Department of Justice to discuss expanding the federal fingerprint background check system.
“I write to request your assistance in implementing an expanded background check system for our nation’s volunteer organizations,” wrote Biden. “If we can work together to expand the number of volunteer organizations that have access to fast, accurate, and inexpensive fingerprint background checks, we will make significant and important strides in our ongoing effort to protect kids across our country.”
Biden added, “I would like to convene a small meeting with key representatives” from DOJ, the FBI, members of Congress and volunteer groups.
One of Hunter’s firm’s lobbying clients at the time, a coalition of state-level criminal justice advocates called SEARCH, was also lobbying the federal government for a broader fingerprint screening system at the time.
The same day as Biden’s letter, SEARCH adopted a resolution calling on Congress to consider “any effort to improve the quality, completeness and accessibility of criminal history records” and expand the current system to “allow the return of all criminal history record information maintained by the States on the search subject through a single fingerprint check.”
The group initially hired Oldaker, Biden & Belair in 2006 to lobby for federal funding for state-level criminal justice programs, paying the firm $114,000 over the next year. In early 2008, SEARCH was seeking funding “to assist states in development and use of information to accelerate automation of fingerprint authentication processes and criminal justice data which are compatible with the FBI’s” system, according to lobbying records.
Biden introduced a bill called the “Child Protection Improvements Act” on March 13, 2008, which created a national fingerprint background check system for volunteer groups that worked with children. Oldaker, Biden & Belair promptly began lobbying for the bill on behalf of their client, SEARCH, according to lobbying records. SEARCH paid the firm $93,000 in 2008, records show.
Hunter Biden founded Oldaker, Biden & Belair with William Oldaker, a former adviser to his father. During his time at the firm, he was registered to lobby for clients on issues ranging from online gambling to higher education. After Biden became a vice presidential candidate in 2008, Hunter stepped away from lobbying, and the firm was renamed Oldaker, Belair & Wittie.
ABC News reported last week that Biden was concerned conflicts with his son’s lobbying work could negatively affect his presidential run in 2008.
Biden was “concerned with the impact that Hunter’s lobbying activities might have on his expected campaign for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination,” according to court documents filed by a former business partner of Hunter Biden’s in 2007, ABC News reported.
“Because my dad was vice president of the United States, there’s literally nothing, as a young man or as a full-grown adult, that my father in some way hasn’t had influence over,” Hunter told the outlet in an interview.
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