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    Hunter Biden’s art poses major ethical problem
    • July 30, 2023


    When President Barack Obama offered the job of secretary of state to then-senator Hillary Clinton, the offer came with a condition. Obama insisted on an ethics agreement that would limit foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation, and he demanded the right to approve all of former President Bill Clinton’s paid speaking engagements.

    The reason is obvious. It’s a problem to have an open conduit for large amounts of money to be paid to the family of a powerful public official, especially when the the value of whatever is being provided in exchange for the money is completely subjective.

    And that brings us to Hunter Biden and his remarkably quick success as an artist.

    Business Insider reported last week that the president’s son has earned at least $1.3 million from his art since becoming a professional artist two years ago. One anonymous buyer purchased 11 pieces for a total of $875,000.

    In 2021, the White House said a negotiated ethics agreement with the Georges Bergès Gallery would ensure that the buyers’ identities would be secret from the public and the artist, to avoid the appearance of influence-buying. But Business Insider learned that Hunter Biden himself told at least three people the identities of two of the buyers.

    Elizabeth Hirsh Naftali, appointed by President Biden to the prestigious Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, is one of Hunter’s art patrons. She was named to the commission in July 2022, about eight months after the Georges Bergès Gallery held Hunter’s first art show in Hollywood, where his rookie paintings were priced as high as $500,000.

    Hirsh Naftali has contributed $13,000 to President Biden’s 2024 re-election campaign and this year has given $36,500 to the Democratic National Committee. White House visitor logs show that she has been at the executive mansion 13 times in the past 18 months. A Biden administration official said the art purchase was not the reason for Hirsh Naftali’s appointment, and it’s not clear when she bought the artwork or how much she paid for it. What is clear is that Hunter knew.

    Hunter also knew that one of the purchasers was entertainment attorney Kevin Morris, whom he met in December 2019 at a fundraiser for his father. The New York Times reported in May 2022 that Morris loaned more than $2 million to the president’s son to help him pay off back taxes in the midst of an IRS criminal investigation. In a courtroom on Wednesday, a negotiated plea agreement with the Department of Justice collapsed when the judge’s questions prodded prosecutors to admit that Hunter Biden could still face charges in connection with large payments he received from foreign entities, possibly violating foreign-lobbying and money-laundering laws.

    Congressional investigators have obtained bank records and IRS whistleblower testimony that point to a pattern of large payments to members of the Biden family for nothing of visible value. The House Oversight Committee has been trying to get records of the Biden art sales from the Georges Bergès Gallery, but Bergès has so far refused to cooperate.

    In July 2021, just as the Berges Gallery was preparing to market Hunter Biden’s paintings, the gallery received an unusually large “disaster assistance loan” from the Small Business Administration in the amount of $350,000.

    This is the very picture of an ethics problem.

    ​ Orange County Register