The former ethics chief under President Obama slammed the Biden White House Thursday for allowing Hunter Biden to sell his paintings for tens of thousands of dollars without disclosing his buyers’ identities, arguing that the buyers’ anonymity could provide an opportunity for a pay-to-play scheme.
Walter Shaub, head of the Office of Government Ethics from 2013 to 2017, has repeatedly criticized the Biden administration for what he has deemed egregious ethical violations, calling the president’s son’s art-selling deal with the White House the “perfect mechanism for funneling bribes.”
The deal Hunter struck with the White House requires that his buyers’ identities be concealed from him and the public, with his gallery handling all transactions. Nothing is in place, however, to prevent the buyers from identifying themselves to gain favor with the administration.
During an appearance on Law & Crime’s Objections podcast, Shaub doubled down, saying that it was outrageous that the younger Biden is selling paintings for exorbitant prices despite his lack of artistic experience.
His pieces, will which be showcased at upcoming art debuts in Los Angeles and New York City, are priced between $75,000 and $500,000.
“There is simply no way an artist who has never even juried into a community center art fair is going to suddenly show up in New York selling art for half a million a pop,” Shaub said. “Let’s talk about the magnitude of this…That’s $6.5 million going to the president’s son for being the president’s son, not for being an artist and I just think that’s absolutely appalling.”
Shaub said he found it problematic that Hunter Biden tried to piggyback off of his father’s fame to launch his art career. He lamented that because the White House got “involved” with the deal, an ill-advised move, the potential ethical dilemma is now the “public’s problem.”
Per the agreement between the White House and the Georges Bergès Gallery, first reported by the Washington Post, Hunter Biden would not be privy to who purchases his art work, a mechanism designed to prevent people from using the purchases to gain political favor. However, Shaub noted that such a rule is counter-productive and could have the opposite effect by concealing the buyer’s identities.
“We have no way of monitoring whether people are buying access to the White House,” Shaub told the Post in July.
“If he were a patriot—if he cared about this country—he would not want to tarnish his father’s reputation that way. Now we can’t fault him for not being a patriot. We can’t fault him for not caring enough about his father’s legacy to avoid this,” Shaub noted Thursday. “That’s a personal failing and he doesn’t technically owe us anything because he’s a citizen and not a government official, but then the White House crossed the line and they got involved in this deal and the art seller was theoretically always planning to keep the names secret, but the White House intervened to ask him to keep the names secret.”
Shaub has also attacked the administration for hiring multiple relatives of senior staffers, calling it a “f*** you” to accountability watchdogs.