House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s daughter and nephew hosted a fundraiser for Joe Biden on Thursday amid the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
Alexis Pelosi, the speaker’s youngest daughter, and her cousin, Laurence, were on the host committee for a fundraiser hosted on the former vice president’s behalf at the home of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) in San Francisco, California. Biden was in attendance for the event, which was one of three his campaign had scheduled in the Bay Area on Thursday.
Neither Alexis nor Laurence Pelosi’s attendance at the Biden fundraiser is surprising. Alexis, a documentary filmmaker and journalist, has been cultivating a more liberal profile herself in Hollywood and Washington, DC. Although less overtly political than her mother, her work behind the camera has taken a more ideological turn recently. Two of her better-known documentaries in the past decade have focused on the issues of immigration and the impact large donors have on America’s political system.
The shift has been noticeable in her campaign donations. Apart from one donation to the House Democrats PAC in 2002, the younger Pelosi made no political contributions until 2016 when she donated to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign. Since then, she has donated to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and made several smaller contributions to progressive candidates and causes. Alexis donated $1,000 to Biden’s campaign on April 25, the day he announced his candidacy.
Laurence, on the other hand, as the founder of an investment firm specializing in real estate, is lesser-known among the public. He has, however, been contributing to Democrat candidates and causes since at least 1993. Like his cousin, Laurence also donated $1,000 to Biden’s campaign on the day of the former vice president’s announcement. It is unclear if either has donated further to Biden, as the Federal Election Commission (FEC) has yet to make records available for the third quarter of this year.
Even though the Pelosis attendance at a fundraiser on Biden’s behalf is not remarkable, the same cannot be said of the timing. The fundraiser comes less than two weeks after Nancy Pelosi launched an impeachment inquiry into Trump’s conduct with Ukraine. The act, which is the first step in the process of bringing charges against the president, was in response to Trump’s suggestion that the Ukrainian government probe into Hunter Biden’s business dealings in the country. In particular, Trump and others have noted the younger Biden profited from opportunities that were unavailable to ordinary businessmen and seemed to directly intersect with his father’s political influence.
At the center of the controversy is how Hunter Biden secured an appointment to the board of directors of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian oil and natural gas giant, in 2014. As Peter Schweizer, senior contributor at Breitbart News, detailed in his book Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends, Hunter Biden secured the position, which paid as much as $83,000 per month, despite having no background in the energy industry or Ukraine.
The younger Biden’s lack of experience, coupled with the fact that his father had just been made the Obama administration’s point man on Ukraine, immediately raised questions from ethics watchdogs in both the U.S. and Europe about a conflict of interest. Furthering the ethical cloud over the appointment is that this came during the same month that Mykola Zlochevsky, Burisma’s founder, had his assets seized in the United Kingdom for suspicion of money laundering. Some have speculated Hunter Biden’s ascension to Burisma’s board was an attempt by Zlochevsky to curry favor with western leaders to prevent further scrutiny of his business dealings.
A brazen attempt along such lines would not be totally ill-suited for Zlochevsky. The Burisma founder is rumored to be one of eastern Europe’s top oligarchs, a position obtained while serving in the Ukrainian government under former President Viktor Yanukovych — a staunch ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. It was during his tenure in government as Ukraine’s minister of natural resources that Burisma received its oil and gas licenses–inappropriately, many suspect.
It is in the context of Burisma and Zlochevsky’s legal troubles that Joe Biden’s political influence has raised the most red flags. The former vice president has particularly drawn questions over his conduct in demanding the Ukrainian government fire its top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, in 2016. Biden, who has publicly bragged about the firing, reportedly threatened to withhold more than one billion dollars in U.S. aid if the Ukrainian government did not remove Shokin. He has claimed the demand came from then-President Barack Obama, who had allegedly lost faith in the prosecutor’s ability to tackle corruption.
Unofficially, though, it was well known Shokin was investigating both Burisma and Zlochevsky for public corruption. It is uncertain if the probe extended to Hunter Biden, although Shokin has recently admitted that prior to his ouster, he was warned to back off of the matter. Regardless of what occurred, Shokin’s successor dropped the investigation into Burisma and Zlochevsky, allowing the oligarch to return to the country after having fled it in 2014.
Despite the strong implications of conflicts of interest and wrongdoing, Nancy Pelosi chose to ignore the storied history of the Biden family’s affairs in Ukraine before choosing to launch her impeachment inquiry. In fact, the rush in which the speaker and her allies in the Democrat leadership moved to launch an inquiry has drawn accusations from President Trump that the entire proceeding is a “witch hunt.” Republicans in Congress have echoed the sentiment, noting the speaker chose to ignore precedent by refusing to hold a vote on the impeachment inquiry, and her deputies, such as Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), have threatened to charge White House officials with obstruction of justice if they “stonewall” the probe.
For her part, the speaker has done nothing to shield herself from such criticism and accusations. One day prior to her daughter and nephew attending a fundraiser for Biden, Nancy Pelosi declared during an appearance on ABC News that the “re-election of Donald Trump would do irreparable damage to the United States.”
Representatives for Pelosi did not return requests for comment on this story.
Outside of the immediate impeachment circumstances, the fundraiser also poses questions regarding the speaker’s preference in the race for the 2020 Democrat nomination. Even though Pelosi has made no official endorsement, the fact that her daughter and nephew are backing Biden raises the question if she herself is in the former vice president’s corner.
A review of FEC filings shows that no other member of the speaker’s family has donated to a candidate other than Biden, even though recent polling has shown Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) leads in their home state of California.