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Former Obama-era Office of Government Ethics chief Walter Shaub called the Biden administration’s hiring of multiple relatives of senior staffers a disgraceful repudiation to the mission of restoring ethics in government.
“I’m sorry, I know some folks don’t like hearing any criticism of him. But this royally sucks. I’m disgusted. A lot of us worked hard to tee him up to restore ethics to government and believed the promises. This is a a real ‘f*** you’ to us—and government ethics,” Shaub wrote on Twitter.
His disappointment stems from the fact that President Biden swore a commitment to keeping family members out of political offices so as to avoid the nepotism and cronyism accused of his predecessor.
Biden told People magazine in January, “No one in our family and extended family is going to be involved in any government undertaking or foreign policy. And nobody has an office in this place.”
While new administration employees may not stem directly from the Biden family tree, some had the privilege of being part of a familial network that may have provided their applications a leg up on other candidates, despite their credentials and qualifications.
“While it may not be as bad as appointing your son or daughter to a top government post as Trump did with Jared and Ivanka, it is still bad,” Shaub told The Washington Post. “‘Not as bad as Trump’ cannot be the new standard.”
At least five children of Biden’s top officials were offered and now occupy important positions in his administration, including two sons and a daughter of the White House counselor, the daughter of a deputy White House chief of staff, and the daughter of the director of presidential personnel.
While deputy White House press secretary Andrew Bates affirmed that “the president has instituted the highest ethical standards of anyone to ever hold this office” in his recruitment of personnel, ethics experts such as Shaub see a concerning pattern of well-connected individuals gaining a competitive advantage in the hiring process to the detriment of meritocracy and diversity.
“In a country that had just come through a pandemic, how can these children of political appointees be the only people who are qualified for employment?” Shaub said to The Washington Post.
Immediately after assuming office, Biden signed an executive order enacting sweeping ethics regulations aiming to crack down on favoritism in hiring practices, but they evidently excluded the scenario in which the administration could hire relatives of White House officials.
Shaub’s comments come as Biden faces scrutiny over the revelations that his son Hunter Biden engaged in suspicious business dealings with foreign entities overseas, among other scandals, that led to his foreign ties, his taxes, and a potential money laundering scheme becoming the subjects of an FBI investigation.