A firm employing James Biden, the younger brother of former Vice President Joe Biden, received more than $1.5 billion in government-backed contracts during the Obama administration.
The dovetailing of James Biden’s professional life with his brother’s political influence is extensively detailed in Profiles in Corruption: Abuse of Power by America’s Progressive Elite—a new book by Peter Schweizer, senior contributor at Breitbart News and president of the Government Accountability Institute (GAI).
In 2010, shortly after a disastrous attempt at running a hedge fund with his nephew Hunter, James Biden entered the construction and international development industry. Even though he lacked background in either, James secured a position as executive vice president at the newly formed HillStone International, LLC. The firm, which was a subsidiary of the long struggling Hill International, was unique for a multitude of reasons.
“The president of HillStone International was Kevin Justice, who grew up in Delaware and was a longtime Biden family friend,” Schweizer writes in his book. “He was friends with lots of Bidens, especially Joe’s sons Hunter and Beau.”
Under Justice’s leadership, the company was setting out to pursue technology and construction projects in the Middle East. Of particular interest to the company were the millions being given to government contractors for the rebuilding of war-torn Iraq—an endeavor Joe Biden was tasked to oversee by President Barack Obama.
It was likely with such projects in mind that Justice headed to the White House in November 2010. During the visit, the HillStone executive met with Michele Smith, a top aide to then-Vice President Joe Biden. Smith, a fellow Delaware native, was serving as the vice president’s liaison to “global government officials and business executives.”
Although the confines of that meeting have not been made public, the subsequent events seem to imply it was beneficial for both HillStone and the Bidens.
“Less than three weeks later, HillStone announced that the vice president’s brother James would be joining the firm as executive vice president,” Schweizer notes.
When announcing the hire, the company lauded James’s professional career as much as it did his political ties.
“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,” James’s biography read on the firm’s website.
Six months after James joined HillStone, the firm received a contract to build more than 100,000 homes in Iraq. The deal, which was estimated to be worth upwards of $1.5 billion, was part of a larger $35 billion contract awarded to a South Korean company. At the time it went public, both HillStone and the Obama White House denied Joe Biden had played any role.
Despite the denials, as Schweizer recounts, both HillStone and James Biden would have become very wealthy if the deal went through. As a minority partner in the firm, James would have been eligible to split more than $735 million in profits upon the contract’s completion.
Hill International, run by a prominent Democrat campaign contributor, would have taken the majority of the profits, as it owned 51 percent of HillStone. The money could not have come soon enough, as Hill International was hemorrhaging cash because of assets it lost or was forced to abandon in countries like Libya after the Arab Spring.
In this context, James Biden’s value to HillStone and Hill International takes on an added dimension.
“He knows how to deal with government officials; that’s his skill. He makes people from foreign countries comfortable we’re not going to steal their money,” Dave Richter, the president of Hill International, admitted in 2012. “After all, he’s also been with his brother [for] a long time.”
Even with James on board, HillStone was eventually forced to back out of the deal after its inexperience with such a large-scale construction project became evident.
The high-profile failure, though, did not disqualify either HillStone or Hill International from seeking and obtaining other U.S. government contracts. In 2012, around the same time its inexperience was coming to the attention of federal agencies, HillStone secured a $22 million construction contract for the U.S. State Department.
James, who is now being sued for fraud related to another business venture, is not the only Biden family member to benefit from taxpayer dollars, as Schweizer exposes in Profiles in Corruption.