They say the beauty of art is in the eye of the beholder, but does that apply to corruption too?
The latest scheme from Hunter Biden, the president’s son, revolves around selling his own artwork. Apparently, Hunter’s paintings are worth as much as $500,000 to various incognito aficionados, according to Hunter’s new art dealer, Georges Bergès.
Former Rep. Jason Chaffetz joins Peter and Eric Eggers on the latest podcast for a class in art appreciation, Biden style. They discuss his recent op-ed and his calls for public disclosure of the identities of these art lovers.
Most people might know about Hunter Biden because of his highly publicized drug abuse, extramarital affairs, and frequent brushes with the law. Or they have seen the evidence published in Secret Empires and Profiles in Corruption of his influence-peddling deals with businesses either run or financed by the Chinese Communist Party, and of his million-dollar payday sitting on the board of a Ukrainian oil and gas company called Burisma. They might know him for his stolen (or abandoned) laptop, or for his confession to snorting parmesan cheese off the floor, thinking it was spilled cocaine.
Turns out, all of that is just the dark shadings of a tortured artist.
A late-blooming career as an artist is not that uncommon for world leaders. George W. Bush took up painting after leaving the Oval Office. By his own reckoning he was not very good at it, but the former president enjoyed it and delighted in donating his works to charity or giving them to family and friends. Winston Churchill was far more avid and ambitious with his oils. As Prime Minister during World War 2, he insisted on having his easel, brushes, and paints brought along on important foreign trips, pondering the fate of the free world while he painted.
Hunter Biden means to make it a business. Bergès told reporters he will hold a private showing for Biden this fall at an undisclosed location in Los Angeles, followed by a private exhibition in New York. The names of various buyers will be kept confidential. But Hunter’s art is being priced between $75,000 and $500,000 – an impressive sum for a neophyte, particularly one with no formal training.
As Jason points out in his article, we are not talking about some unknown, starving artist finally getting his shot at recognition. Hunter Biden has become notorious precisely for peddling access to his father. This is what Burisma sought, what Chinese government-linked businesses sought, and what has landed him in a federal tax investigation.
But there’s more. Jason notes that just last year, the U.S. Senate issued a report about money laundering. And one of the ways cited in the report that Russian oligarchs and other shadowy players do it is through the sale and purchase of art, because of the subjective value of it. Given that Hunter Biden already has a track record of selling meetings with his father to businessmen in other countries, the very least we should demand here is that the names of the “art lovers” who want to snap up Hunter’s mixed-media masterpieces for top-dollar be disclosed. As Walter Shaub, the top ethics officer during Barack Obama’s presidency told Fox News, “The notion of a president’s son capitalizing on that relationship by selling art at obviously inflated prices and keeping the public in the dark about who’s funneling money to him has a shameful and grifty feel to it.”