A newly launched super PAC backing former Vice President Joe Biden is turning to one of his son’s lobbying colleagues to help run its operation.
Earlier this week, a high-powered lobbyist and Biden family confidant established Unite the Country, a super PAC aimed at bolstering the former vice president’s flailing campaign. The group, which can raise and spend unlimited funds, was formed after Joe Biden’s campaign dropped its official opposition to such help in the face of anemic fundraising and sinking poll numbers.
Although much attention has been paid to Unite the Country’s formation and the fact that its treasurer, Larry Rasky, is registered as a foreign agent for the government of Azerbaijan, few have been able to ascertain who else might be implicated in the endeavor. One individual, in particular, seems to be heavily involved in the group, yet has escaped public mention, likely because only his email appears on official filings Unite the Country made with the Federal Election Commission.
That individual, as Breitbart News has been to able to confirm, is William J. Farah, a lobbyist with longstanding ties to both the former vice president and his youngest son, Hunter. Even though it is unclear what Farah’s role will be at Unite the Country—requests for comment were not returned by the super PAC—his lobbying work may shed some light on the matter.
Farah, who touts himself as a campaign finance and anti-corruption expert, is the principal partner at Berke Farah LLP, where he advises “clients on the applicability of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).” Prior to starting his own firm, Farah developed a reputation as one of D.C.’s top lobbyists, catering to corporate giants like Pfizer Inc. Part of that career was built at Oldaker, Biden & Belair, LLP, a lobbying firm started by Hunter Biden and one of his father’s top campaign operatives, William Oldaker.
Upon its founding in 2001, the firm was noted for its strong connections to then-Sen. Joe Biden, who at the time was one of the most senior and influential members of Congress. Apart from employing the younger Biden as a named partner, despite his inexperience with lobbying, the firm also counted among its clientele several organizations whose interests intersected with the senator’s influence.
Those interests came in varied forms. Some clients, like the consumer credit reporting agency Equifax, had a vested stake in legislation that the senator was pushing to tighten bankruptcy regulations. An analysis of Oldaker, Biden’s financials indicates Equifax paid the firm as much $240,000 a year between 2003 and 2005 while Joe Biden was writing the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005. The sum fell to $120,000 in 2006 after the bill had become law.
Other clients, as the Washington Examiner recently revealed, were able to benefit directly from the senator’s political position. One such client was the Industrial Safety Training Council (ISTC), a trade association that promotes safety and security in industrial worksites. The ISTC signed on as a client with Oldaker, Biden in 2007, as it was seeking to pressure the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to adopt regulations “regarding security clearance and credentialing for chemical” facilities.
Shortly after ISTC paid the firm the first installment of what would amount to more than $160,000 throughout 2008, Joe Biden reached out to DHS to express his concern over the issue. The senator purportedly argued that a recently passed law regarding security clearances at chemical plants was not sufficient and that DHS should consider requiring enhanced background checks. The argument, even if unconnected to ISTC, was directly out of its lobbying handbook.
Around the same time that Joe Biden contacted DHS, he also reached out to the Department of Justice (DOJ) on another issue his son’s firm was being paid lucratively to lobby on. In January 2007, the senator requested a meeting with then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to discuss expanding the federal database that crosschecks fingerprints with criminal records. The same day the letter was sent, SEARCH—The National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics—passed a resolution calling on Congress to expand and improve its fingerprint background check infrastructure.
The group, which is a coalition of state-based criminal justice organizations, hired Oldaker, Biden in 2002 to lobby Congress in favor of funding for justice information sharing programs. Although SEARCH was one of the firm’s smaller clients when it first signed on, by 2006 it had grown to be Oldaker, Biden’s most consistent stream of revenue.
Even though the senator was not successful with the DOJ in 2007, SEARCH re-upped its contract with Oldaker, Biden in 2008 but specifically tasked the firm to lobby in favor of a national fingerprint background check system. The group’s efforts were aided in March 2008 when the senator introduced the “Child Protection Improvement Act” that sought to create a national fingerprint background check system for individuals that volunteer with children. Upon the bill’s introduction, Oldaker, Biden proceeded to lobby Congress for its passage.
The appearance of conflicts of interest between the senator and Oldaker, Biden were strong enough to force Hunter Biden’s resignation from the firm in 2008, shortly after his father was tapped as the Democrat’s vice presidential nominee. Despite the younger Biden’s resignation, other members of the firm continued to move easily between the senator’s inner-circle and the lobbying world of Washington, DC.
Farah was one such individual. As a partner at the firm specializing in campaign finance law, Farah was tapped in 2007 to serve as the general counsel for Joe Biden’s failed presidential bid that cycle. Even though the senator dropped out of the race in January 2008 after a poor showing in the Iowa Caucuses, Farah continued to serve as the campaign’s general counsel. Via the role, Oldaker, Biden was paid more than $150,000 for his services throughout October 2008.
Farah did not respond to requests for comment on this story. His ties to both Unite the Country and Hunter Biden come into the spotlight as the former vice president and his son deny any conflict of interest over their respective positions in business and government.
The controversy started in September when President Donald Trump suggested the Ukrainian government probe into how the younger Biden secured an appointment to Burisma Holdings’ board, shortly after his father was made the Obama administration’s point man on Ukraine. 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 no background in energy or Ukraine.
Adding to concerns is the fact that at the time Hunter Biden joined Burisma, the company was seen as actively courting Western leaders to prevent further scrutiny of its business practices. The same month Hunter Biden was tapped for the group’s board, the government of Great Britain froze accounts belonging to Burisma founder Mykola Zlochevsky under suspicion of money laundering.
Not only had Zlochevsky had his assets frozen in Great Britain, but the former Ukrainian minister of natural resources was also facing suspicions of public corruption at home. Zlochevsky would later be charged with corruption for using his ministerial office to approve oil and gas licenses to companies under his control.
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.
Joe 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 known that 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 the matter.
Regardless of what occurred, Shokin’s successor, who is now himself being investigated for public corruption, dropped the investigation into Burisma and Zlochevsky. The matter is only likely to become bigger as the House of Representatives weighs whether Trump’s initial urging for Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden’s dealings with Burisma was an impeachable offense.
The younger Biden, himself, has not done much to allay concerns over his conduct, even telling ABC News recently that he regretted getting entangled “in the middle of something that is a … swamp in many ways.”