Hunter Biden, the lobbyist son of Democratic vice-presidential nominee Joseph Biden, has quit the business in an apparent effort to shield his father and his father’s running-mate, Barack Obama, from negative political fallout.
In a letter released today, Hunter Biden told Congress that “I no longer expect to act as a federal lobbyist.” The letter states that his law and lobbying firm, Oldaker, Biden & Belair, would file a formal termination report shortly.
Biden signed the letter Aug. 25, two days after his father was tapped to join Barack Obama’s presidential ticket. The letter was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
Hunter Biden’s business activities have been a sensitive topic for Obama since the candidate has promised to reduce the influence of special interests in politics. Especially embarrassing was a Washington Post story that documented how the younger Biden sought help from Obama’s staff to secure earmarks for several of his Illinois clients, including a college nursing program and a hospital.
The Obama campaign has hit hard at Republican nominee John McCain for the number of lobbyists among his top advisers, and has refused to take contributions from lobbyists.
A founder of Oldaker, Biden & Belair, Hunter Biden was registered to lobby for nine clients. His firm billed a total of $1.7 million in the first six months of 2008, according to disclosure reports filed with Congress. On Biden’s accounts, the firm took in $470,000 in that period, according to the reports.
Six of his clients were universities, including the University of Scranton and Xavier University.
One of his partners is William Oldaker, a former adviser to Joseph Biden, who is also a founding partner of The National Group, an affiliated firm that specializes in earmarks.
Update: Sept. 13
The New York Times reports today that the Obama campaign did not announce that Hunter Biden had given up lobbying until Friday when reporters questioned his recent work for a couple under federal investigation related to online gambling.
Federal lobbying records show that Hunter Biden’s firm was hired in June by lawyers for J. Russell DeLeon and his wife, Ruth Parasol, billionaire expatriates who founded a Web site called PartyPoker. Their company, PartyGaming P.L.C., which later went public in London, stopped doing business in the United States after President Bush signed a bill into law in 2006 aimed at curbing online gambling.
Wyeth Wiedeman, a lobbyist hired by DeLeon and Parasol, said Biden helped craft a lobbying campaign to persuade Congress to pass a law that would clarify whether online gambling was legal prior to 2006. Wiedeman said the Justice Department has been examining the couple and others involved with the PartyPoker site.