The son of Vice President Joe Biden, a lawyer-lobbyist with no known expertise in the production, transport, or distribution of natural gas, or in the complex financial operations of such a business, was placed on the board of the largest gas company in Ukraine in April 2014 and remained there until spring of this year, netting some $850,000 in payments.
The Hunter Biden-Ukraine connection has become the trigger for the opening of impeachment proceedings against President Trump, but the connection itself is worth examining in its own right. The younger Biden's career sheds light on the decay of American democracy and the vast social gulf that has opened up between the ruling elite and the vast majority of the population, struggling to survive from paycheck to paycheck, and, as a recent survey found, unable to afford paying an unexpected bill of $400.
Hunter Biden, now aged 49, is the former vice president's younger son, and the sole survivor among his children. Naomi, then a year old, was killed in the 1972 car crash that also took the life of Biden's first wife. Beau Biden, the older son by one year, died of brain cancer in 2015.
The younger Biden has always been the black sheep of the family, even according to various sympathetic accounts, most of them appearing in publications -- The New Yorker, the New York Times, the Washington Post -- favorable to the Democrats.
The New Yorker piece, at more than 10,000 words by far the longest, published in July, was obviously planted by the Biden campaign for the purpose of venting all the bad news about Hunter Biden as a preemptive measure against anticipated stink bombs from the Trump campaign.
It was prepared through lengthy interviews by reporter Adam Entous with Hunter Biden. And it delivers a lot of bad news about a career devoted apparently to influence-peddling and drug abuse, both on a scale that matches or exceeds that of any dubious relative of any previous president, at least until Donald Trump.
Hunter Biden was hired by MBNA bank in Delaware, fresh out of Yale Law School, and paid a six-figure salary at the age of 26 because his father was a senator from that state and a fervent defender of the bank and credit card industries. MBNA was then the largest US issuer of credit cards.
He then moved to Washington to take a position in the last years of the Clinton administration. Once the Republicans came to power with the George W. Bush administration, in 2001, he became a lobbyist, helping Jesuit Catholic colleges insert earmarks into congressional appropriations bills.
When earmarks became more difficult to obtain, and after losing money in a speculative venture on the eve of the 2007-2008 financial crash, Biden formed a "consulting" group with Christopher Heinz, stepson of Senator John Kerry and an heir to the Heinz fortune, and a Yale friend of Heinz's, Devon Archer.
Inevitably, after his father's election as vice president, given a prominent international role in the Obama-Biden administration, Hunter Biden's consulting firm branched out into global deal-making, focusing on countries where influence-peddling would be most lucrative and actual business credentials least necessary, among others, China and Ukraine.
In China, the younger Biden traveled on Air Force Two in 2013 with his father, who was making an official trip to Beijing. In the course of this, Hunter Biden introduced a Chinese business partner, Jonathan Li, to the vice president. He left China with promises of future investments, although not with the $1.5 billion that Trump now falsely claims. According to Hunter Biden's attorney, no money has yet flowed from that particular connection.
Another Chinese business prospect gave Hunter Biden a diamond worth either $80,000 (according to his ex-wife's divorce suit) or $10,000, according to Biden's response to the suit, but in any case, much beyond the normal range of business gratuities.
But Ukraine is where Hunter Biden has apparently cashed in most extensively, trading on his father's name and position. In 2013-2014, a right-wing populist movement backed by the CIA and the German government gained the upper hand in an internal power struggle within the Ukraine capitalist class.
The Maidan "revolution" was actually a right-wing coup, spearheaded by outright fascist forces, some of whom marched under Nazi insignias, against the elected president, Viktor Yanukovych, who was aligned with the Russian government of Vladimir Putin.