Before Hunter Biden, There Was Billy Carter, Neil Bush, and Others

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Hunter Biden, then board chairman of the World Food Program USA, speaks at the group's annual McGovern-Dole Leadership Award Ceremony in 2016 in Washington.

FDR had his son Elliott. He abandoned his wife and infant son four days after Roosevelt’s 1933 inauguration.

Elliott didn’t post the traditional “Gone to Texas” sign, but he did head on down to the Lone Star State to pursue a career trading on his father’s position while falling in with New Deal critics. Among others who paid him more than his qualifications justified was media baron William Randolph Hearst. Elliott would later be involved with a military airplane scandal involving Howard Hughes’s aviation company. 

Dick Nixon had his brother Don, who tried to make it with a small chain of hamburger restaurants and was able to temporarily stave off bankruptcy with a loan of $205,000 from the same Howard Hughes. Don never paid the loan back, and Howard doesn’t seem to have objected, later inviting Don along on what was described as a “shadowy” trip to the Dominican Republic early in the Nixon Administration. The President was so concerned about Don’s business dealings that he had the Secret Service tap his brother’s phone.

Jimmy Carter had brother Billy. He tried to cash in on his reflected fame by presenting himself as a Southern redneck and marketing “Billy Beer,” which reportedly tasted as though the last step in the brewing process was to filter it through a goat. His escapades became more serious late in Jimmy’s tenure when he got involved with Libya, accepting a $220,000 loan from that government and eventually registering as an agent for the Libyan government. He did, ironically, enhance his brother’s reputation for integrity when the IRS collected back taxes from him by threatening to take his home.

Bill Clinton provided enough drama with his own antics, so his half-brother Roger was relegated to a secondary role. He had served a year in prison for cocaine trafficking when Bill was Arkansas governor and later would be investigated by the FBI for allegedly taking money to arrange pardons for six drug dealers from his brother the president. On his way out of office, Bill pardoned Roger’s drug conviction. Months later, Roger was arrested for driving under the influence.

Now we have Hunter Biden, the son of the former vice president and current frontrunner for the 2020 Democratic nomination. Hunter seems to have obtained lucrative contracts in at least two very corrupt corners of the world – Ukraine and China – where relatives of political leaders are regarded as a form of royalty and have influence at court. 

Not many details have come out about Hunter’s involvement since joining the board of Burisma, one of Ukraine’s largest gas companies, in 2014. Hunter had no background in the energy sector, so it is reasonable to assume that he was hired to bolster the controversial company’s air of respectability. Reports unverified by the company indicate that he was paid as much as $50,000 a month for his service on the board, which met twice a year. Apparently it wasn’t enough. According to The Washington Post, divorce records in 2017 indicate Hunter was suffering both an addiction problem and financial woes. 

This gives me a strong feeling of déjà vu. In 2003, shortly after I began writing a column for the Houston Chronicle, I obtained some divorce papers involving Neil Bush, brother of then-President George W. Bush.

One was a contract from a huge Shanghai microchip manufacturing company, providing Neil with $2 million worth of stock for serving on an advisory board and $10,000 for each board meeting he attended. Like Hunter Biden, Neil Bush had few credentials for the position. He admitted in a divorce deposition that he knew little about the microchip industry. He protested, however, that he had a good deal of business experience. 

In fact, he had little to show for it other than unfavorable press for his performance as a board member of Denver’s Silverado Savings and Loan, one of the most spectacular failures during the 1980s financial crash when his father was vice president. A federal investigation would find Neil Bush had committed a number of “breaches of his fiduciary duties involving multiple conflicts of interest” as a board member. He would pay $50,000 in fines to settle a lawsuit by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

In another part of the divorce deposition, Bush admitted that during business travels to Hong Kong and Thailand he had a number of times received late-night knocks on his hotel room doors by lovely women who wanted to relieve him of his loneliness. He was asked if they were prostitutes and responded that he didn’t know. He said he didn’t pay them.

I wrote that it was possible that he was so attractive that the women, having seen him in the hotel bar, bribed the bartender to share the room number from his tab. I also concluded that if he didn’t know that they were prostitutes he may have actually believed the microchip company engaged him for his business expertise.

The story, as they say, went viral, appearing in papers from London to Australia. The Daily Telegraph writer spiced up one of my lines with British seasoning: “Maybe these foxy babes had just spotted him in the piano lounge, taken a fancy, and given the bartender 10 bucks for his room number.”

I suppose when an Englishman does it it’s not plagiarism.

I received requests from the likes of The Washington Post, the Associated Press, and Harper’s Magazine for copies of the microchip company’s contract with Bush providing for the $2 million in stock and $10,000 payments.

I also received an emailed request from an editor at Playboy for a copy of the deposition segment describing the late-night entertainment. He said if I sent it he would ship me an early copy of the magazine’s upcoming 50 year anniversary issue.

I responded that I had a longstanding policy of accepting no small bribes. It would require at least a late-night knock on a hotel room door by a Playboy Playmate. He wrote back: “Which playmate?”

I didn’t respond, but did mention the exchange in a subsequent column. That brought me an email from the wonderful Carmina Danini, a longtime reporter for the San Antonio Express-News

“I recommend Miss October,” she wrote. “1956.”

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