Senate Republicans want to call Hunter Biden as a witness to explain how he got appointed to the board of Burisma. The media has reported occasionally on James Biden, Joe’s older brother, and how he used perceived access to the vice president to cash in on the family name as well as get Hunter an income stream. Today, ABC News takes a closer look at yet another Biden who scored off the family name, and who openly bragged about it … for a while.
Meet Frank Biden, Joe’s younger brother, and a man who made a fortune on charter school contracts that turned out to be controversial:
Frank Biden, a longtime real estate developer in the state, accepted the offer, and over the years, he touted his famous last name and prominent connections in Washington to help land the company a series of charter contracts from local officials in Florida to open charter schools, earning hundreds of thousands of dollars over a five-year period from the company in the process.
In media interviews at the time, Frank Biden was unabashed – calling his last name “a tremendous asset” because of the family’s record of “taking care of people who need help,” and telling people it brought him “automatic acceptance” as he sought government approvals for the for-profit Mavericks in Education.
Claims of mismanagement would ultimately bog down many of those schools, which focused on educating at-risk teens with troubled backgrounds. In at least two separate lawsuits, Mavericks schools faced allegations of inflating enrollment as part of a scheme to garner more government funding. The charters were eventually sold and the schools reorganized under new management.
Critics suggest that when Frank Biden touted his family name to promote the Mavericks’ charter schools, it was just one example of the Biden family actively benefiting from sharing a name with the vice president. Now it could pose challenges for the former VP as he seeks the Democratic Party nomination for president, even when Joe Biden has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
“They brought him in for his name,” said one former Mavericks board member, and Frank had no problem playing the part. He wore cufflinks with the presidential seal on them just to make sure everyone knew that the Biden name was no coincidence. At a 2011 Palm Beach school board meeting in which the Mavericks charter school application was questioned over its business plan, ABC News has video showing Biden telling them that “I give you my word of honor, on my family name, that this system is sustainable.”
Was it? Apparently not:
A 2014 lawsuit filed by two Pinellas County school district executives – which named Frank Biden as a defendant – accused Mavericks of “falsely inflating the operating expenses associated with the operations of the charter schools” in an effort to “divert funds from the education of the students to the owners of [Mavericks]” – to the tune of $22 million. The lawsuit was ultimately dropped.
In 2012, a former teacher at the Mavericks school in Palm Beach filed a whistleblower lawsuit accusing her supervisors at the company of altering student enrollment records in an effort to secure more government funding. This case was settled out of court. The terms of the settlement were kept private.
A pair of audits by the state of Florida in 2012 and 2014 found that Mavericks schools operated in Palm Beach and Broward Counties were beset by similar issues. Pegg said those audits led school districts to develop corrective action plans for Mavericks, which the company followed.
Yikes. That’s not a good look for Biden in a cycle dominated by populist distrust of Washington establishment. Many pols have a Billy Carter-esque relative who’s willing to cash in on their status as shirttail relative, but few seem to have quite so many as Sheriff Joe does. Are there any Bidens around who aren’t monetizing their connection to the man who’s been in Washington for nearly 50 years?
Still, although this ABC report is both amusing and enlightening, it’s probably not going to mean much overall. Unless ABC can tie Frank to an official intervention by Joe, no one will be able to pin the blame for Frank on his older brother. The Hunter Biden narrative is much more compelling because of the obvious interventions that took place, and not just in Ukraine or for that matter in China too. How did Joe’s buddy Sen. Thomas Carper get the idea of appointing Hunter to the board of Amtrak, for instance, one of Joe’s biggest hobby horses during his time in the Senate? And how did Hunter score $130 million in the TERF program’s bailout loans that his father pushed as VP?
Those are the questions that will matter to voters in the end, assuming Biden manages to win the nomination in the first place. That’s the kind of cashing in that will anger Americans the most, and Team Trump must be salivating at the prospect of beating Biden over the head with all of it starting this summer.