During the presidential campaign, liberals had plenty of reason to tune out the Hunter Biden story.
For one, it was being pushed by Donald Trump, whose administration was awash in ethics scandals of its own, and who failed to make a convincing case that Hunter Biden’s work for a Ukrainian energy company influenced his father’s actions as vice president. And it was unclear what to make of the alleged leak of material from Hunter Biden’s laptop, especially after social media companies moved to restrict access to the story and a bevy of former U.S. intelligence officials dismissed it as likely “Russian disinformation.”
Following the election, it seemed the whole Hunter Biden saga might fade away amid Trump’s efforts to overturn the result, the storming of the Capitol and an ongoing pandemic. Instead, he has remained in the headlines.
Most recently, news broke this summer that Hunter Biden would begin selling paintings, with initial prices as high as $500,000. It was an extraordinary sum for a debut artist, and immediately invited concerns that people who wanted to ingratiate themselves with the president would overpay for his son’s art.
The White House responded that the identities of the buyers would be kept secret, both from the painter and the public, while leaving it to the art dealer to weed out any suspicious patrons.
Many ethics experts expressed sharp disapproval of the arrangement, including a former head of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub, who described the sums of money involved as “absolutely appalling.”
So far, right-leaning outlets that devoted less attention to the ethical issues raised by the activities of Trump’s relatives have had a field day with the Hunter Biden story. Interest in his activities, meanwhile, has been relatively muted on the left.
That may be changing. Along with new evidence that at least some of the alleged laptop material is genuine — as well as other emerging evidence about the deals family members have sought or received from people with an interest in influencing Biden — the bipartisan outcry over the painting venture suggests that the Hunter Biden issue is not going away, and that liberals may increasingly tune in.
After all, concerns about money influencing politics have traditionally animated liberals more than conservatives. In fact, one of the most scathing critiques of Biden came during the Democratic primary, from the progressive reformer and Bernie Sanders surrogate Zephyr Teachout, who authored an op-ed for the Guardian accusing Biden of having a “corruption problem” (the column prompted Sanders to apologize to his former Senate colleague).
And with his father in office, Hunter Biden’s activities no longer bear on an electoral choice between Biden and Trump. Instead, they threaten to complicate the White House’s efforts to position Biden as a global anti-corruption crusader, along with its contention that “we have the highest ethical standards of any administration in history.”
It is impossible for the public to know everything that goes on inside a government office, let alone inside a family, especially one as tight knit as the Bidens. Ethics experts generally maintain that officials should avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, a standard that becomes especially stringent at the highest levels of government.
Yet there is evidence that the Biden family’s activities over the years have regularly presented such an appearance. Far from ethical concerns about Hunter Biden being debunked, the case for close scrutiny only grows stronger when viewed in the full context of the family’s story and in light of events that have unfolded since Election Day.