Former White House ethics chief knocks Bidens over ethics of Hunter’s private art sale

Self-taught artist Hunter is asking for up to $500,000 per piece, despite it being his debut sale

John Bowden
Friday 09 July 2021 06:22
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<p>Former head of the United States Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub.</p>

Former head of the United States Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub.

Hunter Biden plans to sell pieces of his own artwork later this year at a private sale that is already raising eyebrows for its potential ethical concerns.

The younger Biden plans, according to The Washington Post, to host an art sale in the fall. A self-taught artist with zero past offerings on the commercial market, Mr Biden is nonetheless said to be asking as high as $75,000 to $500,000 for his paintings.

Art critics who spoke with the newspaper said that such a price was hard to explain for any other reason than Mr Biden’s last name, which they argued was likely driving the prices higher. Such a situation plainly raises the possibility that private citizens seeking to get in the Bidens’ good graces could purchase a piece for much more than it would otherwise be worth.

One art dealer, Marc Straus, told the Post thatnobody” without professional training or experience in the art field would fetch prices that high for their first art show.

“My take was [the paintings] weren’t bad at all. But there’s a yawning gap between not bad and something fabulous,” Mr Straus said.

Complicating the situation is the agreement made by Mr Biden with the private art dealer, Georges Bergès, who is managing the sale. Under the agreement negotiated with help from the White House, the sales of the artwork will be wholly confidential with not even Mr Biden knowing the prices for which the pieces sold.

Advocates of this idea, including a White House deputy spokesman, contended to the Post that such an agreement would answer ethical concerns presented by the sale.

Others, including former Obama White House ethics czar Walter Shaub, knocked the idea as a layer of secrecy that would prevent ethics watchdogs from knowing who was paying large sums of money to 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,” he wrote on Twitter.

“Because we don’t know who is paying for this art and we don’t know for sure that [Hunter Biden] knows, we have no way of monitoring whether people are buying access to the White House,” added Mr Shaub. “What these people are paying for is Hunter Biden’s last name.”

A White House ethics chief who served under the second Bush administration, Richard Painter, concurred, adding: “The whole thing is a really bad idea.

“The initial reaction a lot of people are going to have is that he’s capitalising on being the son of a president and wants people to give him a lot of money. I mean, those are awfully high prices,” he said.

An attorney for Mr Biden referred questions to the White House, which defended the situation in a statement to the Post.

“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,” said deputy spokesman Andrew Bates.

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