News Release

“Biden’s Friends and Backers Come Out on Top”

JOSEPH N. DiSTEFANO, joed at inquirer.com, @PhillyJoeD
DiStefano is a staff writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer and the author of Comcasted: How Ralph and Brian Roberts Took Over America’s TV, One Deal at a Time.

He recently  wrote the piece “Joe Biden’s Friends and Backers Come Out on Top — at the Expense of the Middle Class” for The Nation, which states: “It’s a ritual expression of what locals call the Delaware Way, a bipartisan contrast to angry national politics. The Delaware Way can be useful for elected officials — and their friends in business. And family. There’s an axiom often repeated in his Senate years by Joe Biden’s staff: ‘Joe says that when someone helps his family, it’s just like helping Joe,’ recited Sam Waltz, a Wilmington business consultant who covered Biden’s first Senate reelection campaign as a young reporter.

“Soon after Biden was first elected in 1972, banks from three states lined up to finance his brother James Biden’s new disco in suburban Wilmington. When the club defaulted, Joe Biden blamed the banks for exploiting his 23-year-old sibling and for pressing his office to get their money back. (They didn’t.) Despite this, over the years, many Biden-related projects have proved irresistible to local, national, and lately, Chinese businesspeople. …

“In 2008, a month before Biden was elected vice president, [John] Hynansky [of Winner Auto Group] made his biggest political donation: $28,500 to the Democratic National Committee. The next summer, Biden told a roomful of Ukrainian leaders in Kyiv, ‘My very good friend John Hynansky, a very prominent businessman from Delaware, is here.’ That fall, Winner won its first U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) loan, in the amount of $2.5 million. …

“Given the Trump family’s penchant for mixing personal and official business, it’s tempting to dismiss the Biden clan’s affairs as no crime, no foul. But Biden’s friends and backers have won victories that cost the middle-class Americans he claims to champion dearly. …

“In 1996, Biden’s cozy relationship with the banks was used against him. A Republican challenger for his Senate seat complained that MBNA’s No. 3 executive, John R. Cochran, had bought Biden’s Greenville house for the full $1.2 million list price, despite a weak housing market. MBNA stuck with Biden; even after Wilmington’s News Journal published an internal MBNA letter coordinating employee donations to him, he won reelection easily.

“MBNA then hired his son Hunter Biden, fresh out of Yale Law School, as a management trainee. (He stuck out among the mostly state and Catholic college alumni who worked at the bank.) The New York Times reported that when Hunter Biden left in 2000 for Washington, D.C., and a new lobbying firm, Oldaker, Biden & Belair, MBNA kept him on a $100,000 annual retainer — not to lobby his father, he said, but for advice on ‘Internet and privacy law.’

“With U.S. credit card debt doubling every five years, defaults and bankruptcies rose, too. Joe Biden joined the Republican lawmakers pushing new bankruptcy reforms that would make it tougher for individuals to write off a range of consumer loans. …

“President Trump’s conflicts may be bigger and bolder and more likely to spark criminal charges or even corrupt U.S. policy. But is this really the best Democrats can do: to point out that Trump is worse? They tried that in 2016 — and it didn’t end well.”