Jim Biden was in a bind. An investor had put up $1 million to help Jim and his nephew Hunter buy a hedge fund. Then it turned out that the fund’s assets were worth less than the Bidens had thought. Now the investor wanted its money back.
It was December 2006, not long before Jim’s older brother and Hunter’s father, Joe Biden, then a Delaware senator, would announce his second campaign for president.
Jim and Hunter Biden got a loan from a bank founded by one of Joe’s political backers — William Oldaker, an attorney for the senator’s presidential campaign and Hunter’s partner at a Washington law and lobbying firm.
Oldaker had strong ties to Joe Biden’s political operation, and at the time, the bank, WashingtonFirst, had nearly half a million dollars in deposits from a Joe Biden political committee Oldaker had helped set up.
But WashingtonFirst was less than three years old, and a $1 million loan was large for its size. The bank required that loans be well secured by borrowers’ assets. Jim Biden put up his house in Merion Station, Pennsylvania, as collateral, but he already had $1.5 million in three mortgages against the property, then roughly valued at just over $1.1 million. Hunter offered as security his recently purchased Washington home, for which he had borrowed almost the entire purchase price. Oldaker did not return phone calls, and a source close to Jim and Sara Biden said all of their loans were properly secured.
It was not the first time — or the last — during his long career that Jim Biden turned to Joe’s political network for the kind of assistance that would have been almost unimaginable for someone with a different last name. Campaign donors helped him face a series of financial problems, including a series of IRS liens totaling more than $1 million that made it harder to get bank financing. Jim Biden took out two more loans from WashingtonFirst before its sale in 2018.
These transactions illuminate the well-synchronized tango that the Biden brothers have danced for half a century. They have pursued overlapping careers — one a presidential aspirant with an expansive network of well-heeled Democratic donors; the other an entrepreneur who helped his brother raise political money and cultivated the same network to help finance his own business deals.
Jim Biden, 70, has cycled over the years from nightclub owner to insurance broker to political consultant and fundraiser to startup investor and construction company executive. But the through line of his resume was his bond with his brother, a Democratic Party stalwart in a position to push legislation or make government contracts happen.
“My sense is that Jim really has been trying to peddle himself on the Biden name for some time,” said Curtis Wilkie, who covered the Bidens as a Delaware political reporter.
Spokespeople for Jim Biden and Joe’s presidential campaign declined interview requests for the brothers. In response to questions, campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said that Joe Biden had no involvement in Jim Biden’s loans and did not arrange for supporters to help his brother. Bates also said that the former vice president knew “nothing” about his brother’s investments and was unaware that Jim had often been delinquent on his federal taxes or that the IRS had placed liens on his home. Bates said Oldaker is not involved in the 2020 campaign.
“The vice president and his brother have always understood and agreed that James’ business ventures are separate from and independent of Joe Biden’s career in public life,” Bates said.
A source with knowledge of Jim Biden’s finances said that he and his wife, Sara, have sometimes failed to pay their taxes on time because “they are largely self-employed and sometimes have an unclear picture of how their year will end financially,” but that they have always paid in full, including interest and penalties.
Recognizing a potential minefield, Joe has avoided responsibility for or financial involvement in his brother’s ventures, according to longtime advisers. Yet on occasion, as Jim pursued opportunities, Joe met with his potential clients or partners, at Jim’s request.
In 2002, Joe addressed a Washington conference of the National Association of State Treasurers, whom Jim was courting on behalf of lawyers who wanted to represent state pension funds. “Jim offered that his brother,” who usually took the train home to Delaware in the evening, “was just happening to be in town,” said Pamela Taylor, then the group’s executive director. “He said: ‘He’s going to spend the night in D.C. Would you like him?’”
Taylor reached out to Joe, who had previously been invited by Delaware’s state treasurer but hadn’t firmly committed. Joe spoke to the group over breakfast, analyzing the prospects for war in Iraq. “It was perfect,” Taylor recalled.
Jim Biden has been at his older brother’s side at nearly every critical juncture in Joe’s personal and political life. As fundraiser for his brother’s first Senate race in 1972, he helped launch Joe’s political career.
That same year, Jim broke the news to Joe that his wife, Neilia, and baby had died in a car accident, and he then watched over his brother day and night. When Joe was hospitalized with a brain aneurysm more than 15 years later, it was Jim who “was working the phone,” looking worldwide for the best neurosurgeon, according to Richard Ben Cramer’s book, “What It Takes,” which profiled the candidates for president in 1988.
But Jim has also been a political vulnerability. While a plagiarism scandal put pressure on Joe to drop out of the presidential race in 1987, protecting his brother from reporters asking about Jim’s shaky finances was the final impetus for Joe’s withdrawal, according to Cramer. “They were going after Jimmy; it wasn’t just Joe anymore,” Cramer wrote.
In the 2020 campaign, Joe’s family ties have again dogged him. President Donald Trump’s impeachment stemmed from allegations that he sought to damage Joe, a potential reelection opponent, by pushing Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden’s relationship with a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma. Joe promised to establish clear boundaries for family business ventures.
Those close to Joe Biden say his relationship with Jim illustrates his fierce family loyalty. In the 2020 race, one adviser said, Jim “is trying very hard to stay out of the limelight.”
“For all his — let me find a kind word for it — entrepreneurship, Jimmy understands that he needs to keep his business separate from Joe’s career. Whether his relationships with unions, treasurers, law firms are the result of people who want to be nice to Jimmy because he’s Joe’s brother, that’s a thankless position to be in,” the adviser said.
Some people risk their own savings and assets to build a business. Others don’t have anything to risk, so they profit from the political positions of relatives.
Then, those people who traffic in political financial gain rail about those who have made their success by their own efforts.
Joe Biden’s brother Frank owes dead man’s family $1 MILLION for 80mph car crash – but has never paid a cent in 20 years and the Democratic candidate did NOTHING to help.
Since then he has earned hundreds of thousands of dollars in string of ventures, including for-profit charter schools and Costa Rican property development