Report: Lobbyist brother of top Biden aide raking in big bucks since the inauguration

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WASHINGTON, DC- The swamp is alive and well in Washington, DC, courtesy of “the most transparent administration in American history,” or so said White House mouthpiece Jen Psaki. Hey, you were warned.

According to the New York Post, a lobbying firm run by the brother of a top adviser to Joe Biden is raking in big bucks for the first half of 2021, as reported by the Wall Street Journal last week.

The Journal reported the firm of Ricchetti, Inc., a Washington D.C. lobbying firm oversee by Jeff Ricchetti, raked in some $1.67 million in lobbying fees in just the first six months of the year. Jeff Ricchetti is the brother of Counselor to the President Steve Ricchetti. The Journal cited financial disclosure forms in filing its report.

That is a sharp contrast over what the firm took in over the first six months of 2020–$370,000. Amazing what having a connection to the White House can do for a company’s bottom line.

Among the clients’ firms are titans such as Amazon, General Motors, pharmaceutical powerhouse GlaxoSmithKline, and TC Energy, surprisingly the company behind the Keystone XL Pipeline, which Biden abruptly halted within hours of being inaugurated in January.

Clearly, this arrangement is raising ethical concerns, with the Journal noting that Jeff Ricchetti contacted the Executive Office of the President on behalf of several clients, which did not occur during the Trump administration.

Jeff Ricchetti claims that he doesn’t lobby his brother, which sounds disingenuous.

“I do not lobby my brother, nor have I lobbied the White House this quarter,” said Jeff Ricchetti in an email. [emphasis added]

The White House Claims that Steve Ricchetti—a former lobbyist himself and co-founder of the company in question, Ricchetti, Inc.,–recuses himself from all matters concerning his brother, the firm and its clients.

According to CNBC, Jeff Ricchetti lobbied members of the National Security Council (NSC) on behalf of General Motors in the second quarter. The report, reviewed by CNBC, showed he had engaged with the NSC for GM on “issues related to China.” The car company paid him $60,000 last quarter for his lobbying services.

It should be noted that the NSC falls under the Executive Office of the President where Steve Ricchetti works. Jeff Ricchetti also helped broker an infrastructure deal between the White House and lawmakers, CNBC reported.

While Steve Ricchetti tries to distance himself from his brother Jeff’s lobbying, the NSC is chaired by Biden himself. NSC meetings may be attended by Biden, the vice president, Secretary of State, Secretary of Treasury, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Director of National Intelligence, as well as other senior administration officials.

According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, Ricchetti, Inc., has not lobbied the National Security Council until this year.

Jeff Ricchetti, in an email sent to CNBC said he no longer lobbies the White House Office, led by chief of staff Ron Klain. He refused to answer questions including whom he spoke with at the NSC on behalf of General Motors, or specifically what he was lobbying about with regard to China.

While Jeff Ricchetti claims he doesn’t “lobby the White House,” going through the NSC is an indirect way to gain access, CNBC said.

The finance network said it reached out to GM for comment, however after publication a spokeswoman provided a statement to CNBC that didn’t delve into specifics of Jeff Ricchetti’s work.

“Jeff Ricchetti among other lobbyists that are registered to advocate on our behalf to help GM advocate for policies that support our customers, dealers, and employees, help strengthen our manufacturing presence in the United States and advance our vision of a world with zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion,” the spokeswoman said.

GM had previously tried to have the Trump administration remove tariffs on the Buick Envision, which is manufactured in China. Trump’s administration rejected that request. According to the GM spokeswoman, Jeff Ricchetti didn’t discuss tariffs with the NSC.

The CEO of General Motors, Mary Barra along with other auto executives held a virtual meeting with Biden to discuss a shortage of semiconductor chips, which is causing new cars to be parked while they have no computer chips to run their computers.

Thus far, Biden’s administration has left many of Trump’s China trade policies in place, including extensive tariffs on Chinese exports.

The latest info to drop about Ricchetti has gotten the attention of ethics experts, in particular former Obama director of the Office of Government Ethics Walter Shaub. He also served under President Trump for a short time. In an email to CNBC, Shaub said that Steve Ricchetti could quite easily ask his brother to cease engagement with the Executive Office of the President in order to avoid ethics scrutiny.

“Jeff Ricchetti isn’t a government official, so Steve Ricchetti can’t control him, but he could at least publicly ask him to stop lobbying the Executive Office of the President,” Shaub said.

“That’s probably too much to hope for from a man who appears to have turned this administration into an employment agency for his offspring, though.”

Steve Ricchetti’s son, J.J. Ricchetti also has used his father’s connection to Biden in order to land himself an administration job.

“What these people are doing makes it harder to get the public to care about government ethics. Shoot, it makes it harder to convince them that such a thing can even exist. Thanks for that, Ricchetti’s. Hope you enjoy your money,” Shaub said. 

Shaub has also been highly critical of the Hunter Biden art arrangement, saying the whole thing doesn’t pass the smell tests.

CNBC was referred to the NSC by the White House, which didn’t return a request for comment.

At the outset of the Biden administration, ethics officials told CNBC that Steve Ricchetti would be under pressure to recuse himself from issues linked back to his and his brother’s business.

The New York Post reported that beside the Ricchetti’s, a number of other families have been able to secure jobs for multiple family members, confirming the CNBC report.

For example, Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s wife, Evan Ryan is the White House cabinet secretary, who serves as the main point of contact between the White House and the other departments and agencies in the federal government.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan’s wife, Maggie Goodlander works in the Justice Department as counsel to Attorney General Merrick Garland. Sullivan’s younger brother Tom is deputy chief of staff for policy at the State Department, returning to a position he held during the Obama administration. His wife Rose is the acting assistant secretary for legislation at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Not to be outdone, White House press secretary Jen Psaki’s sister Stephanie works at HHS as senior adviser on human rights and gender equity in the Office of Global Affairs.

Besides those officials, others such as White House senior adviser Anita Dunn, deputy chief of staff Bruce Reed, and Presidential Personnel Office director Cathy Russell each have at least one family member employed by the Biden administration.

Shaub also slammed that revelation last month.

“I’m sorry, I know some folks don’t like hearing any criticism of him,” Shaub tweeted speaking of Biden. “But this royally sucks. I’m disgusted. A lot of us worked hard to tee him up to restore ethics to government and believed the promises. “This is a feal ‘f-you’ to us—and government ethics.”

“The jobs went to privileged kiddos with mommies & daddies who cozied up to POTUS.” Shaub added. “Nepotism is illegal.”

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For our previous report on the Hunter Biden art fiasco, we invite you to read that report.

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The following article includes personal views of the author.

WASHINGTON, DC- Remember a couple of weeks ago when we were told Hunter Biden’s “art” would be sold anonymously ostensibly to give the transactions some semblance of being ethical and free of any type of quid pro quo?

According to numerous news outlets, including the New York Post, that is no longer the case.

Biden, whose “art” consists of blowing paint through a straw instead of snorting cocaine through one has raised ethical concerns among many, believing that the art sales amount to nothing less than a pay for play scheme in order to buy access to his father, Joe Biden.

According to sources, Biden is expected to meet in New York and Los Angeles later this year with prospective buyers of his “artwork”

According to spokeswoman Robin Davis of the George Berges Gallery, she told CBS News that Biden was scheduled to appear during a private showing in Los Angeles and a larger art show in New York City later this year.

“He’s looking forward to it. It is like someone debuting in the world. And of course he will be there,” Davis said.

In order to indicate some kind of legitimacy to the potential purchases, Davis said potential buyers “will be vetted…so whomever is appropriate will be attending.”

The new developments are in direct conflict with statements issued by the White House earlier this month, in which they said the identities of potential buyers would be kept confidential.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said earlier this month that the owners of galleries where the “art” will be made available for purchase would remain anonymous.

“The gallerist will not share information about buyers or prospective buyers, including their identities, with Hunter Biden or the administration, which provides quite a level of protection.”

Psaki’s comments came as a number of people have raised ethics concerns over the arrangement, especially in light of the Biden family’s history of questionable business arrangements.

Now however, Psaki is defending Hunter Biden’s decision to meet with potential buyers…flip-flop.

According to the Washington Times, Psaki said that Hunter Biden won’t be involved in negotiating the sales.

“I think we have set up a system which we feel has appropriate safeguards,” the White House talking head said. “We believe that Hunter Biden, like any child [he’s over 50] should be able to pursue their professions and their passions.”

The White House claims the identities of the buyers would remain secret, however that seems to fly in the face of the revelation that Hunter Biden will meet with prospective buyers.

According to guidelines established by the White House, the names of buyers are supposed to be withheld from Hunter Biden, with Psaki saying that will apparently avoid the possibility of someone buying influence by overpaying for the artwork. Because when it comes to Joe Biden, that has apparently never happened.

“We won’t know who they are so there’s no scenario where they could provide influence,” Psaki said.

Psaki was then pressed on why the White House wouldn’t simply release the names of buyers to increase transparency, whereby she repeated that neither Hunter Biden nor the White House will know who buyers are.

That seems to fly in the face of the initial statement where it was announced Hunter Biden would meet with potential buyers in LA and New York City.

She was asked if the agreement to keep buyers’ identities anonymous is in writing, which she neglected to answer directly.

“I can see if there is writing, but I think it’s pretty clear what the agreement is, so I’m not sure it is more complicated than that,” she said.

CBS pressed the White House about the issue (in a rare case of actual journalism) to which another White House spokesman, Andrew Bates referred the outlet to a July 8 statement as follows:

“The president has established the highest ethical standards of any administration in American history, and his family’s commitment to rigorous processes like this is a prime example.”

It is unclear if Bates said this with a straight face, but if you want a look into how ethical the Biden family is, we invite you to read Profiles in Corruption: Abuse of Power by America’s Progressive Elite by Peter Schweizer.

In that book, he outlines The Biden Five and how members of Joe Biden’s family have monetized his name and position to enrich themselves. Breitbart News published a piece about this last year.

The idea that someone would pay what some have estimated to be some $75,000 to $500,000 for a novice “artists” painting blown through a straw appears to be absurd, yet the administration is leading us to believe that the purchase of this art wouldn’t be done with the intent of buying influence with Joe Biden.

The deal agreed to by the White House would ostensibly mean that only the gallery owner would know the buyer’s identity or the sale price, and it would be up to Berges to flag any bid which appears to be exorbitantly high.

Incredibly, an ethics adviser for the Obama administration questions the arrangement, noting it appears the White House is “outsourcing government ethics” to the art gallery.

The former adviser, Walter Schaub said:

“Is Hunter Biden going to walk around the art show with a blindfold on? It just goes to show you the focus isn’t on government ethics. It’s just showing the child of a president can cash in on the presidency.”

Davis claims Berges has known Hunter Biden, who has no formal artistic training, for about two years.

“He really wants to help Hunter and for people to recognize his talent,” Davis said. “So you know, I think it’s all on the up and up.”

Berges told The Post he initially wasn’t convinced of Biden’s artistic ability.

“A lot of people say they can paint and do sculpture, but what I was concerned about was whether Hunter’s work would be authentic,” he said.

“What interested me was whether the work was going to be honest—something that was really true to him and his journey,” Berges said. “But as soon as I met him, I had a real connection with him, and I felt I could work with him.”

Not all are convinced of the value Biden’s paintings have. For example last week, Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic Sebastian Smee told CNN that the paintings were “nothing much to see,” and “you wouldn’t, unless you were related to the artist, spend more than $1,000 on it.”

Others also expressed skepticism about the arrangement. 

“The most ethical administration in American history?” You decide.

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For our prior reporting on Hunter Biden’s art extravaganza, we invite you to:

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WASHINGTON, DC – Former President Obama’s ethics chief, Walter Shaub, is highly critical of the White House’s plan on how to approach Hunter Biden’s artwork sales.

And yes, apparently Hunter Biden is now an artist.

According to reports, the White House announced an ethics plan regarding the sale of Hunter Biden’s artwork, noting that the man who mistakenly smoked parmesan cheese thinking it was crack will not be privy to who is purchasing his artwork – which apparently Hunter Biden’s paintings will range in price from $75,000 to $500,000.

Former Obama ethics chief Shaub is rightfully concerned that the White House is pushing for secret buyers of Hunter Biden’s artwork, highlighting that this creates too much wiggle room for potential backroom dealings prefaced with high-ticket art purchases from the president’s son:

“So instead of disclosing who is paying outrageous sums for Hunter Biden’s artwork so that we could monitor whether the purchasers are gaining access to government, the WH tried to make sure we will never know who they are. That’s very disappointing.”

“The idea’s that even Hunter won’t know, but the WH has outsourced government ethics to a private art dealer. We’re supposed to trust a merchant in an industry that’s fertile ground for money laundering, as well as unknown buyers who could tell Hunter or WH officials? No thanks.”

https://twitter.com/waltshaub/status/1413099329942953984

Shaub’s mentioning of the world of high-ticket art dealings being a “fertile ground for money laundering” isn’t a farfetched claim, as CNN even released an article back in July of 2020 called “The art world has a money laundering problem”, which article title speaks for itself.

Shaub referred to the White House’s approach on this ordeal as being the “amateur hour” in the realm of governments ethics, calling Hunter Biden’s venture into the world of high-priced art another instance of him “profiting off his father’s public service”:

“Is this amateur hour for government ethics? Good luck dealing with the fallout when a new owner of Hunter’s pricey “art” appears in a magazine spread. In the meantime, the WH has put its stamp of approval on the president’s son profiting off his father’s public service again.”

Now Shaub is no fan of former President Trump’s time in office, noting that Trump was also at times an “ethical disaster”, but said that President Biden cannot be ignored because he’s perceived to “better” than Trump in the world of ethics:

“Yeah yeah, I know some folks aren’t going to like this thread because we’re not supposed to criticize the president who’s way better than the ethical disaster named Trump. But, you know what? With democracy on the ropes, ethics has never been more important. And this ain’t it.”

https://twitter.com/waltshaub/status/1413099331616399371

In an emailed statement to Fox News, Shaub further expanded on his concerns over the Hunter Biden art sales debacle, saying that the White House having the buyers of Hunter Biden’s artwork remain anonymous gives Americans no “means to monitor whether the buyers are getting preferential access to government.”

Shaub added that by the White House getting involved with Soho art dealer Georges Berges, who is slated to hold an exhibition during the fall of 2021 featuring Hunter Biden’s artwork, and not asking for anything other than “transparency” on who is buying the artwork is essentially approving of Hunter Biden “trading on” his father’s role as president:

“Nobody ever said secrecy was the best disinfectant, but that’s what we have now. And White House officials getting involved in any way other than to request transparency amounts to effectively putting an official stamp of approval on the president’s son trading on his father’s public service.”

Obama’s former ethics chief noted that President Biden should instead be “begging” Hunter to not get entangled in these art sales:

“Instead, the president should be begging his son not to go through with this sale, even if that means threatening to banish him from the family’s Thanksgiving table this fall and publicly condemning his actions.”

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