House Oversight Committee chair James Comer (R-KY) on Wednesday subpoenaed President Joe Biden’s brother, James Biden, who Comer has implicated in unsubstantiated allegations of “shady business practices” in the Biden family.
Comer has in particular been trying to make hay out of two personal loan repayments from James Biden to his brother, for $40,000 and $200,000—with all transactions occurring in 2017 and 2018, when Joe Biden was neither in office nor a candidate.
But if Comer genuinely believes these transactions clear the “shady business practices” bar, he might want to consider a parallel inquiry into his own family.
According to Kentucky property records, Comer and his own brother have engaged in land swaps related to their family farming business. In one deal—also involving $200,000, as well as a shell company—the more powerful and influential Comer channeled extra money to his brother, seemingly from nothing. Other recent land swaps were quickly followed with new applications for special tax breaks, state records show. All of this, perplexingly, related to the dealings of a family company that appears to have never existed on paper.
But unlike with the Bidens, Comer’s own history actually borders a conflict of interest between his official government role and his private family business—and it’s been going on for decades.
While Comer and House GOP allies have tried to cast the Biden transactions as evidence of unsavory and possibly impeachable offenses, multiple news organizations—including CNN, The Wall Street Journal, FactCheck.org, and the conservative-leaning Washington Examiner— have all thrown cold water on the notion that the payments are evidence of anything other than a brother helping a brother.
That hasn’t stopped Comer. But hypocrisy hasn’t stopped Comer before, either.
Earlier this year, The Daily Beast reported that Comer’s probe into the “weaponization” of government resources resounded with echoes of Comer’s own investigation-meddling scandal. The Daily Beast also reported that Comer’s first blockbuster oversight hearing this year—into abuse of the COVID loan program—also happened to invoke Comer, as well as his brother.
This time, the irony is even richer.
“Even if this was a personal loan repayment, it’s still troubling that Joe Biden’s ability to be paid back by his brother depended on the success of his family’s shady financial dealings,” Comer said in a press release last month.
But Comer’s investigative efforts have so far failed to show that Joe Biden’s loans have any connection to family business dealings—let alone to actions while holding elected office. Comer, however, exercised government influence directly over his family’s industry for nearly 20 years.
Comer has held important positions in agriculture oversight since 2003, while running a family farming business, and those roles overlapped in 2019, the year of the land swaps. He only stepped back from an agriculture oversight role recently, in 2020—one year after the family business pivoted away from farming.
Delaney Marsco, senior counsel for ethics at nonpartisan watchdog Campaign Legal Center, told The Daily Beast that Comer’s overlapping public and private roles raise concerns about whether he may be trying to “game a personal business advantage.”
“Conflicts of interest can occur when members serve on committees overseeing industries in which they are heavily invested or in which their business interests are intertwined,” Marsco said. “Voters have a right to know that lawmakers are using their considerable power in the interest of the public, not to game a personal business advantage.”
A Comer spokesperson did not return The Daily Beast’s comment request.