Human Events Blog

October surprise? Biden’s brother and crony capitalism

Fox Business published a lengthy report Monday about Vice President Joe Biden’s brother James, who is a partner at a firm called Hill International.  A subsidiary of Hill International recently landed a contract to build 100,000 homes in Iraq.  The company would seem to have few obvious qualifications to win this incredibly lucrative bid, which would “generate $1.5 billion in revenues over the next three years, more than three times all the revenues Hill produced in 2011.”

Pretty much everyone interviewed in the story mentions political connections as a major factor in securing this big-bucks contract, particularly James Biden’s relationship with the Vice President.  James Biden will get a minority partner’s cut of $735 million from the Iraq deal.  Beyond the “access to senior levels of government” he affords, Biden doesn’t have particularly impressive qualifications:

James Biden’s bio on the Hill website touts his “40 years of experience dealing with principals in business, political, legal and financial circles across the nation and internationally” that “enable him to understand the needs and perspectives of government, financial and development leaders to effectively negotiate and implement low-cost housing objectives both domestically and abroad.”

But the bio cites no specific business-related post that he has held in the past, though it says that at “the age of 22, (James) Biden was the finance chairman of his then 29-year-old brother’s bid for a U.S. Senate seat in Delaware and successfully enlisted the support of national unions, political leaders and financiers across the country.”

Amusingly, an attorney who works for James Biden described him as a successful “serial entrepreneur,” but couldn’t name a single business he created.  Towards the end of the Fox Business piece, there is some talk about how Biden’s future with the firm might be a little cloudy.  The forecast will probably firm up a lot on November 6.

There are plenty of stories about private sector business decisions hinging upon a web of personal connections, and James Biden would hardly be the first, or last, person hired because he’s got some important political names in his Rolodex.  Still, a recurring theme of Obamanomics is the ascension of political connections to become the paramount resource.  A lot of people are hurting in Obama’s America, but if you’ve got the connections of Solyndra maven George Kaiser, you can get huge amounts of tax money poured into absurd business propositions.  This, in turn, attracts the participation of investors who believe Big Government’s “partnerships” will not be allowed to fail, no matter how much money they lose.  Capital shifts away from legitimate opportunity, in obedience to political commands.

When politics marries business, it’s hard to say whether its children favor Mom or Dad.  How much of any given Big Government decision is shaped by the kind of careful planning its advocates are constantly touting, and how much is due to personal connections between the central planners and their chosen “business partners?”  Such questions are asked of private ventures, too, but the difference is that private ventures face severe and immediate consequences when cronies fail to deliver on their promises.

Also, the Obama campaign has made a big stink about how Mitt Romney conducted his private business matters, during his career with Bain Capital.  Are billion-dollar contracts with the Vice President’s brother the Democrats’ idea of a clean, fair system in which “everyone plays by the same rules?”

 

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