Now that Joe Biden is headed toward the Democratic nomination for president, Republicans are reviving their efforts to smear him via his son, Hunter, and Hunter’s service on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma. Nothing untoward has ever been proved against Hunter, not even alleged (beyond generic) “corruption,” and the search for something untoward is all an effort to create this cycle’s version of “but her emails.”
Key to the Republican argument is the notion that the younger Biden had no qualifications for the job. “When speaking with ABC News about his qualifications to be on Burisma's board, Hunter Biden didn't point to any of the usual qualifications of a board member," Donald Trump lawyer Pam Bondi said at his impeachment trial. "Hunter Biden had no experience in natural gas, no experience in the energy sector, no experience with Ukrainian regulatory affairs. As far as we know, he doesn't speak Ukrainian."
Trump being Trump, he’s whittled all that down to the claim that Hunter Biden was appointed to the board because he “didn’t have a job.”
Since we’re going to be hearing about this nonstop for the next eight months (ugh), here’s the reality.
Hunter Biden is a graduate of Yale Law School, by far the best and most prestigious law school in the country (sorry, Harvard). Notes Trump fact-checker extraordinaire Daniel Dale, at the time that “Hunter Biden was appointed to the board of Burisma in 2014, he was a lawyer at the firm Boies Schiller Flexner, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University's foreign service program, chairman of the board of World Food Program USA, and chief executive officer and chairman of Rosemont Seneca Advisors, an investment advisory firm. He also served on other boards.”
Boies Schiller Flexner was founded by David Boies, the same Boies who defeated Microsoft in an antitrust case, who represented Al Gore in the 2000 election recount, and who successfully challenged California’s ban on gay marriage. (Also, the firm represents Harvey Weinstein, and Boies himself represented fraudulent firm Theranos, so … I’m not saying it’s all happy unicorns—I’m just reinforcing that it’s not some backwater ambulance-chasing firm. These are powerful heavy hitters.)
His teaching gig in Georgetown’s foreign service program, which is focused on international development, shows that Hunter did have expertise and an active interest in international relations and development. That makes sense, because World Food Program USA is focused on ending global hunger (and is currently raising money for relief efforts among Syrian refugees).
Rosemont Seneca was co-founded by Christopher Heinz, son of Teresa Heinz (of ketchup fame) and stepson of John Kerry. There’s little information about the firm online, but it looks like a garden-variety hedge fund. No one has alleged anything shady about it yet. But what it does show is that Biden had connections to the world of high finance that would be of interest to any conglomerate looking to raise capital and expand into new markets.
And by all indications, Hunter was an active member of the board of Rosemont Seneca, investigating possible expansion opportunities and connecting the company to legal and financial resources in the United States.
Was he on the board, likely, because of his last name? Probably. Was it a stupid idea to join such a board while his father was vice president? Of course. But no less stupid than pretty much everything the Trump children have done since their father entered the White House. Still, ugh. It sure would’ve been nice to head into the general election with a candidate unencumbered by such baggage.
We now get to spend the rest of the year playing the “both sides are corrupt” game, muddying the waters on an issue (corruption) we should own easily. But pretending that Hunter had zero qualifications for the job, or worse, had no job? It’s utter horseshit, and we should be very clear to call it out as such.
Republicans are going to believe whatever they want to believe. That’s the power of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. If Trump says it’s okay to go to work even when infected with COVID-19? Okay then! Mission accomplished. All is well.
But we should fight and make sure the traditional media doesn’t repeat those claims as fact. Because, like pretty much everything else that comes out of Trump’s mouth, it’s utter horseshit.