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Old 05-18-2020, 04:19 PM
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Officials' Children Doing Business = Corruption?


Hi... Dipping my toe in GD waters...

I'm gonna get accused of JAQ, but I'm serious. This is something I do not know, and would like The Straight Dope.

In the impeachment, one major subtext was that Biden was corrupt because, while Vice President, his son engaged in business in Ukraine, a country receiving military assistance from the U.S. (Oops, dangling participle, sorry!)

But...isn't the current President's son doing business in Saudi Arabia, a country receiving military assistance from the U.S.

I can only see two possible answers:

1) Yes, the President is a stinking hypocrite, and no one is a bit surprised.

2) The President is certainly a stinking hypocrite in general, but these two specific cases are actually different enough that they should not be compared directly against one another. Apples <> Oranges.
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Old 05-18-2020, 04:22 PM
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IANAL, but this sounds to me like politicians buying and selling stock: Technically legal, but looks extremely skeevy, and makes one liable to be accused of insider trading or conflicts of interest. So, legal but not recommended.
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Old 05-18-2020, 04:33 PM
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Great to see you back!
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Old 05-18-2020, 04:42 PM
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Milion gracias! Victim of job furlough, nothin' to do but get in trouble... :-O
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Old 05-18-2020, 05:00 PM
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I think it is a legitimate question, and it is certainly not limited to one party. Whenever family members are conducting business that could be influenced by an official (not just this president), or are engaging in business that could benefit from the influence of an official there is always a concern for corruption. The difference here is that while Hunter Biden’s directorship of Ukraine’s largest private gas producer and Joe Biden’s support for overall State Department policy for dealing with apparent corruption in the Ukraine could be viewed as a potential conflict of interest (although no specific benefit or chain of activity was ever identified and from which Joe Biden gets no fiscal benefit), the Donald Jr. and Eric Trump are specifically running the business interests that Donald Trump claimed that he was going to put into a “blind trust” (he didn’t) and from which he directly benefits in terms of income and personal wealth.

It has been the tradition—though not a legal requirement—that a president will put their investments and wealth-accruing assets into a trust to avoid such conflicts (although this did not work out well for Jimmy Carter, who accrued significant debt on a property for which there was no plausible conflict) and not only did Trump not do this but all of his adult children have been seen specifically referencing the presidential authority of Donald Trump as a benefit of doing business with their respective companies. So, yes, I think the inveighing and demand for investigation of the Bidens while Trump Organization doing non-blind trust business (or any business) with Saudi Arabia is hypocritical notwithstanding the withholding of aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden for political advantage and the removal and defaming of the US ambassador to the Ukraine for objecting to the same is corruption in plain sight.

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Old 05-18-2020, 05:48 PM
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It is, of course, (1).

Other than that, I second everything in Stranger's post.

There was a time when the American public seemed to care about corruption, particularly in the office of POTUS. As he points out, Jimmy Carter had to sell a damn peanut farm to avoid any scent of impropriety (although some of that may have just been Carter's general holier-than-thousishness, I'm honestly not sure). But now we just don't seem to give a damn. Now it's one claim of sexual assualt against 17. It's Hunter Biden against Don Jr. and Eric. It's honestly depressing.
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Old 05-18-2020, 05:53 PM
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I'll agree with Velocity's assessment, adding the additional point that like stock trading its something that just about every politician on both sides of the aisle does.

Having family member who is a powerful member of government opens doors that aren't open to other people, whether or not there is anything fishy going on. It's not surprising that some family members choose to go through those doors.

Last edited by Buck Godot; 05-18-2020 at 05:56 PM.
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Old 05-19-2020, 02:51 PM
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Billy Carter cashed in on Billy Beer, whom no one would have bought if his brother wasn't POTUS.
No one would have given Roger Clinton acting roles or hired him to sing, if his brother wasn't POTUS.
Neil Bush would have never been put on the board of Grace Semiconductor if his father and brother were not both POTUS'.
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Old 05-19-2020, 03:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Omar Little View Post
Billy Carter cashed in on Billy Beer, whom no one would have bought if his brother wasn't POTUS.
No one would have given Roger Clinton acting roles or hired him to sing, if his brother wasn't POTUS.
Neil Bush would have never been put on the board of Grace Semiconductor if his father and brother were not both POTUS'.
None of these were of any direct (if any) benefit to the respective presidents, however. The more consequential conflict of interest was actually Billy Carter receiving a load from the Libyan government, in response to which President Carter responded by making the statement that his brother (a gas station owner and promoter of a liqueur called “Peanut Lolita” which I can only imagine tastes as awful as it sounds) did not and would not have influence on US policy concerning Libya.

Donald Trump, however, has a direct benefit to how the companies under his name and being run by his sons are doing, and has made only the most facile efforts to separate the influence of his presidential office from his business concerns in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. For him to criticize anyone else for hypothetical conflicts of interest is...peculiar to say the least. But then, it is a pattern of behavior for Donald Trump to accuse and criticize others for the very acts that he himself is doing as an extremely obvious form of blame shifting.

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Old 05-19-2020, 05:13 PM
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So is the idea that a private citizen can have their business activities restricted because they are related to a public official?

Note : I’m not talking about the Trump situation, because Trump still owns the company in question that the Trump kids are touting abroad. That could make them be proxies for Trump.

I’m thinking about a more general case, like Hunter Biden, or offspring of other public officials, like Pompeo’s (if any).

Can those adult offspring of public officials be barred from seeking job opportunities abroad, even though they’re not public servants, because of who their daddy is?

Sons and daughters of Congresscritters - also barred from jobs abroad because their parent is a public official? What about jobs in the US? All those adult independent individuals have their economic goals affected because they’re related to a public official?
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Last edited by Northern Piper; 05-19-2020 at 05:16 PM.
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Old 05-19-2020, 06:46 PM
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As for the "should," Velocity said it well: it's legal, but skeevy, and probably should be avoided. Blind trusts help a lot, but they aren't perfect airlocks.

My question, really, came out of wondering why "But, wait, Donald Trump Jr..." wasn't a major talking point during the impeachment, when "Hunter Biden! Corruption" was a major talking point. That's why I wondered if there were some real and significant differences in the cases that made such a response (tu quoque though it may be) inappropriate. It just seems to me that it should have been shouted from the rooftops.
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Old 05-19-2020, 07:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Buck Godot View Post
I'll agree with Velocity's assessment, adding the additional point that like stock trading its something that just about every politician on both sides of the aisle does.

Having family member who is a powerful member of government opens doors that aren't open to other people, whether or not there is anything fishy going on. It's not surprising that some family members choose to go through those doors.
Yup. Much in the same way as having a parent who is a billionaire or a Hollywood A-lister or being fourth-generation Harvard legacy or one Queen E2's grandkids does, to a greater or lesser extent.

Of course, the best that person can then do is do the job to the best of their abilities and with the most strict observance of the law. But you will never escape the "appearance" of that this was only offered for ingratiation purposes. The issue here is that this was never really a legal or ethical regulatory mandate agaisnt that, but rather something for which you would be judged in the Court of Public Opinion and your political relative would be subject to the Judgement of the Ballot. Of course this falls apart if the official doesn't care and even more so if his voters don't care.
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Old 05-19-2020, 07:56 PM
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The reason Trump wasn't held up as a counter argument for Biden during the impeachment is that Trump has successfully managed a Gish gallop of corruption. There is just so much of it that there is no time to concentrate on any one aspect. Also, as a result Trump does something horribly corrupt is a dog bites man story. His opponent having a wiff of corruption is dog bites man. This is why Trump could get away with insulting one and all during the 2016 campaign, but Hillary was nailed to the wall for mentioning a significant portion of Trumps supports were supporting him for bad reasons (while her larger point that we shouldn't assume that all of his supporters were awful was completely lost.)
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Old 05-19-2020, 09:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Trinopus View Post
My question, really, came out of wondering why "But, wait, Donald Trump Jr..." wasn't a major talking point during the impeachment, when "Hunter Biden! Corruption" was a major talking point. That's why I wondered if there were some real and significant differences in the cases that made such a response (tu quoque though it may be) inappropriate. It just seems to me that it should have been shouted from the rooftops.
Because, “But him, too!” is not a credible defense for someone who isn’t actually guilty of anything. Trump can get away with his hypocrisy because his base doesn’t care and in fact venerates him for his ability to get away with this kind of horseshit, while this would alienate the bulk of people who would consider voting for Biden even though the only actual scandal here is that Trump tried to use his authority as president to force Ukraine to dig up or manufacture a story to discredit a political rival. This scandal, like Iran-Contra, US$12B of American cash missing in Iraq, and the Trump [not a] University fraud scandal are lost in the mists of time while people are still looking for Hillary’s lost emails and Obama’s Kenyan birth certificate.

But let’s serious: the real scandal here is the actual Obama-gate, where then President Obama eviscerated candidate Donald Trump as the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Now, that’s real corruption.

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Old 05-20-2020, 12:11 AM
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What Hunter Biden did was not illegal, but certainly in bad taste.

Jared Kushner got bought out of a billion dollar mistake. That probably is illegal if it could be investigated.
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Old 05-20-2020, 12:26 AM
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Wel, what is the adult child to do? College? Well, that only lasts for so long and many colleges get government aid. Just about every job anywhere, even with non-profits has something to do with the government.

Are they just to remain unemployed? Oops, UC- government $.

Nothing Hunter did was in any way illegal or unethical.
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Old 05-22-2020, 03:01 PM
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2) The President is certainly a stinking hypocrite in general, but these two specific cases are actually different enough that they should not be compared directly against one another. Apples <> Oranges.
There are quite a few obvious differences between the two cases.

Hunter Biden has no relevant skills to be sitting on the board of a Ukranian gas company. He has no knowledge or experience in the region or the industry. He himself has admitted that the only reason he got the position, and the money, was because he was Joe's son. Moreover, as far as anyone can tell, he did no actual work. He went to a few meetings and got paid tons of money for it. It seems absurd to think Burisma would pay him that if they didn't at least think they'd get some influence through it. it's also worth noting his career arc: his first job was working for his father's biggest corporate donor; then got paid to lobby his father's colleagues' then was named to the board of Amtrak, which his father was a major funder of. He's never once held

The Trump kids, in contrast, in general and AFAIK all have more or less all been employed by their father's companies from the start, all more or less doing actual work. Obviously, it's nepotism that they all rose to high-ranking positions, but all signs are that they actually are involved in the day-to-day operations of the various divisions. And while Trump is president *now,* they were in those positions well before their father was in public office.

If he the owner of a privately-held company wants to put his own kids on his own payroll, that's his own business. Lots of family-owned companies do the same. When people in public office are getting their kids big paydays from entities that are seeking public money, that's the public's business.

Last edited by furt; 05-22-2020 at 03:01 PM.
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Old 05-26-2020, 03:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by furt View Post
When people in public office are getting their kids big paydays from entities that are seeking public money, that's the public's business.
Like if (for example) you pulled strings with a major trade parter/adversary to grant trademarks to your daughter's clothing line, or if you funneled a lot of state business to the hotel chain your sons manage?
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