Legislation mandating disclosure of financial ties between immediate family members of elected government officials and foreign governments — provisionally titled the Washington Corrupt Practices Act — would help combat foreign-procured political influence and corruption within America, determined Peter Schweizer, president of the Government Accountability Institute, senior contributor at Breitbart News, and author of Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends.
Schweizer elaborated on his Wednesday-published New York Times opinion editorial in a same-day interview on SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Tonight with host Rebecca Mansour and special guest host and Washington Post columnist Henry Olsen.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) financial relationship with the Chinese state is illustrative of the status quo of foreign business relationships between politicians and foreign governments evading disclosure requirements, explained Schweizer.
The family of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who is McConnell’s wife, owns a seafaring shipping business, noted Schweizer. “They had it even before Mitch McConnell and Elaine Chao were married, but in 1993 … the Chinese government basically struck a deal with the Chao family, where they said, ‘We will finance the construction of your cargo ships. We will provide crews for your cargo ships, and state-owned enterprises in China will give you lots of contracts to ship our goods around Asia.'”
Schweizer continued, “And what you’ve seen as that relationship has budded, is basically that Mitch McConnell has become a lot less critical of the Chinese government, and this is essentially what the Chinese are playing at. They’ve done it in Australia. They’ve done it in New Zealand [and] other parts of Asia. They are quite confident that the way to deal with adversarial countries or countries that are resistant to their policies is essentially [is to] try to buy off the political class, and they’ve had some success in doing that, and they’re doing that in the United States today.”
Schweizer noted how Joe Biden’s geopolitical analysis of China changed following his youngest son, Hunter Biden, launching a private equity firm with $1.5 billion in financing from the Chinese state.
“Joe Biden was basically a hawk on China for most of his Senate career in the ’80s and ’90s, even up until the early parts of the Obama administration,” Schweizer remarked. “Joe Biden has basically said, ‘We should welcome a rising China. China is not a threat. There is benefit to China becoming stronger, because they will be more like us.'”
Olsen contrasted news media focus on alleged foreign-rooted conflicts of interest between President Donald Trump and those of Joe Biden via Hunter Biden’s business dealings in China and Ukraine.
“The thing that gets me is that Hunter Biden is obviously a troubled individual,” Olsen stated. “The New Yorker magazine profile of him goes into enormous detail about his troubles. For three years, we’ve been hearing about every little thing about the Trump children or the Trump administration, and how awful it is that foreign dignitaries stay at the Trump Hotel in DC because they might be currying favor with the president, and how terrible it is that Chinese investors are buying condos in Jared Kushner’s family’s buildings, and yet here we’ve got this troubled person, who Joe Biden obviously loves, who is raking in cash well beyond his expertise, and supposedly we’re not supposed to be worried about it. The double standard here is just glaring.”
Olsen added, “It’s almost like you can imagine some sort of shakedown deal. You can almost imagine somebody going up to [Joe Biden] and saying, ‘Nice son you’ve got there. Shame if something were to happen to him.’ It’s very troubling. You don’t even have to say that [Joe Biden] has changed his mind [on China.] The fact is Hunter Biden’s future is now indebted to people and regimes that are potentially hostile to the United States, and definitely regimes that we want to have an interest in, and he, unfortunately, has a personal stake [in this] because of his son’s involvement. That’s news, and it’s as much news as when the president of Ukraine says, ‘Oh, I stayed in the Trump Tower when I was in New York.’ In fact, I’d say it’s even more so.”
Asked by Mansour for solutions to combating foreign procurement of political influence through business relationships with politicians’ family members, Schweizer proposed legislation modeled after the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
“Here’s the paradox,” replied Schweizer, “A few years ago … one of [J.P. Morgan’s] subsidiaries was fined hundreds of millions of dollars by the federal government of the United States because what their subsidiary did was hire the children of Communist Party officials in China with the explicit hope of getting favorable treatment from the Chinese government. So they paid a large fine for that, and that violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which means you are not allowed to provide a favor or a benefit to a foreign government officials in exchange for favorable treatment.”
Schweizer continued, “Here’s the problem. It’s called the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for a reason. It does not apply in the United States. If J.P. Morgan did what they did in China and got fined for — if they did the same thing in the United States — it would be completely legal and acceptable. And to me, that should be unacceptable. The notion that American corporations are not allowed to buy foreign politicians — but foreign corporations can buy American politicians — I don’t think is where we want to be as a country. I’m proposing [a] legislative solution that creates similar barriers to hiring the family members of politicians in the United States.”
Without identifying specific persons, Schweizer revealed that he had discussed the aforementioned legislative proposal with some senators.
“I recognize it’s not going to be easy to get passed,” said Schweizer of the Washington Corrupt Practices Act. “You’ve people on both sides of the aisle that want to cash in, but I think this is key, or we’re going to continue to see in this country a descent into more corruption, into kind of a third-world swamp where the political class is getting rich and their interests are not aligned with the populace; their interests are aligned with foreign oligarchs or companies that are paying them.”
“At a very minimum … there ought to be a disclosure,” Schweizer continued. “If Joe Biden or Mitch McConnell are running for office, they’re required to disclose a $200 donation from anybody. It’s required by federal law, and the reason is we want to know who’s putting money in their campaign coffers if that person is getting favorable treatment or influence. And they’re also required to disclose if they have $1000 in stock in General Electric, because we want to make sure their decisions are not being marred by their own financial interests. So they have to disclose those things. But their adult child, like Hunter Biden, joins a Chinese firm — a billion-dollar firm funded by the Chinese government — there’s no disclosure requirement.”
Existing disclosure requirements related to campaign contributions and investment are insufficient to reveal potential conflicts of interest between politicians and foreign states, noted Schweizer. “I would argue that if you are a foreign entity, the best way to get influence over an American politician is not by making a $200 campaign contribution, it’s not by hoping they own $1000 of your stock, it’s by striking a lucrative deal with one of their kids, and yet there’s no disclosure requirement. At a minimum, we should require American politicians [and] elected officials in senior government positions [to disclose] if their immediate family members have deals with foreign governments. They should be required to disclose that and let citizens know that.”
The Washington Corrupt Practices Act may yield bipartisan support, speculated Schweizer.
“This has the prospect of a kind of populist left-right legislative approach,” Schweizer estimated. “Imagine if you could have a Ted Cruz, [a] conservative Republican, and an [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez], who is really a left-wing socialist in Congress, both of them [support this]. This is the sort of issue I think resonates with them and their view of Washington. They’re suspicious of the establishment. They see this as corrupt and I’m hoping that we can find common cause.”
Schweizer added, “That’s what happened with the STOCK Act. You had conservative Republicans in the Freedom Caucus [and] left-wing Democrats in New York who all said, ‘It’s outrageous. They shouldn’t be trading stock in this way. We need to place some restrictions on it.’ I think this has the same marker. The biggest challenge you’re going to have is with leadership. Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell, they’ve been there for a long time. They like to set aside these kinds of perks for themselves. They don’t like to place restrictions on fellow members of Congress. I think you have reform-minded people in both parties, and I just think they need to have the courage to step up and say, ‘You know what? We need to have a legislative solution to this,’ and I think it’s going to be very hard for the leadership to resist a move, because these are not issues where you’re going to find even five percent of the American people who think this is a good idea. Most Democrats and most Republicans think this is terrible and needs to stop.”
Olsen concluded, “Sounds to me like the one thing Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and President Trump could all agree on.”
Breitbart News Tonight airs Monday through Friday on SiriusXM’s Patriot channel 125 from 9:00 p.m. to midnight Eastern (6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Pacific).
Follow Robert Kraychik on Twitter @rkraychik.