Questions raised about conflicts of interest around Biden son-in-law

Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenMcConnell challenger dodges court packing question ‘Hamilton’ cast to reunite for Biden fundraiser Trump relishes return to large rallies following COVID-19 diagnosis MORE’s son-in-law, Howard Krein, has continued his work at an investment firm overseeing health care solutions to COVID-19 while also advising the Biden campaign on the pandemic, sparking potential conflict-of-interest concerns, according to Politico

In March, StartUp Health, where Krein serves as chief medical officer, announced a new initiative to invest in entrepreneurs with various “solutions for mitigating, managing, or treating coronavirus or future pandemics.”

A month later, StartUp Health announced it would be investing $1 million across 10 different startups with potential public health solutions to the coronavirus. 

This came around the same time that Bloomberg and The New York Times both reported Krein among those taking part in daily Biden campaign briefing calls on health policy. 

As noted by Politico on Tuesday, Krein’s involvement in funding for specific coronavirus-centered projects could present a conflict of interest for Biden should he win the presidency in November. 

Politico hypothesized that the U.S. government could spend billions of dollars on nationwide coronavirus responses in 2021, with tens of billions of dollars already spent on COVID-19 testing and vaccine research. 

Since its founding in 2011, StartUp Health had close ties with the Obama administration, which described Krein at the time as a White House adviser, according to Politico. 

Krein reportedly began dating Biden’s daughter, Ashley, in 2010, with the two officially marrying in 2012. 

When contacted by The Hill, a Biden official said that Krein does not serve as a formal adviser to the campaign, although he has occasionally provides his perspective as a health care official working to combat COVID-19 on the front lines. 

However, Avik Roy, founder of investment firm Roy Healthcare Research and a former adviser to the presidential campaigns of Sens. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyThe Hill’s Campaign Report: Barrett hearings take center stage | Trump returns to campaign trail Biden: Faith shouldn’t be a subject in Barrett confirmation fight Nebraska district could prove pivotal for Biden in November MORE (R-Utah) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioTrump Jr. returning to campaign trail after quarantining EXCLUSIVE: Intelligence chief briefed lawmakers of foreign influence threats to Congress Trump Jr., UFC star launch anti-socialism bus tour through South Florida MORE (R-Fla.), told Politico that he had “little doubt” that Krein’s close relationship with Biden, “particularly if he becomes president, would attract the interest of some investors.”

Laura Huang, a professor at Harvard Business School who studies investment processes, told Politico that even a public perception of bias could send a certain message to investors. 

“Sometimes, the perception is all you need. Signaling is very important for startups and investors alike, and one signal is high-profile individuals who can help provide access,” she said. 

Krein’s connection with Biden had been reported earlier this year by conservative commentator and Breitbart News contributor Peter Schweizer in his book “Profiles in Corruption: Abuse of Power by America’s Progressive Elite.” 

In a statement to The Hill on Tuesday, Biden campaign deputy rapid response director Michael Gwin said, “It’s sad that Politico is recycling baseless accusations and innuendo from a discredited right-wing ‘journalist’ like Peter Schweizer.”

Gwin also directed The Hill to remarks given by Biden in 2019 in response to questions on the former vice president’s involvement with businesses owned by or associated with his family members. 

“I have never discussed, with my son or my brother or with anyone else, anything having to do with their businesses. Period,” Biden said at the time.

“And what I will do is the same thing we did in our administration,” he continued. “There will be an absolute wall between personal and private [business interests] and the government. There wasn’t any hint of scandal at all when we were there. And I’m going to propose the same kind of strict, strict rules. That’s why I never talked with my son or my brother or anyone else — even distant family — about their business interests. Period.”

Politico’s reporting comes after Republicans have repeatedly called into question the Democratic nominee’s son Hunter Biden for his work with Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings. 

In last month’s presidential debatePresident TrumpDonald John TrumpTwo ethics groups call on House to begin impeachment inquiry against Barr Trump relishes return to large rallies following COVID-19 diagnosis McGrath: McConnell ‘can’t get it done’ on COVID-19 relief MORE accused Hunter Biden of profiting in China while his father was vice president.

“China ate your lunch, Joe. And no wonder, your son goes there, he takes out billions of dollars. Takes out billions of dollars to manage. He makes millions of dollars,” Trump said.

Hunter Biden joined the board of Burisma Holdings in 2014. The company’s founder was under investigation by then-prosecutor general Viktor Shokin, who the U.S., the United Kingdom and other countries argued had failed to end corruption in the country.

The U.S. threatened to withhold approximately $1 billion in loan guarantees if Shokin was not replaced as prosecutor general. 

While Trump and his allies have argued that Hunter Biden’s role in the company played a part in the withholding of funds, the older Biden denied acting with his son’s interests in mind.

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