The wheeler-dealer vice president and his family have reaped the benefits of public office for nearly a half-century.
This has got to be the bazooka of all Joe Biden blowhardisms. The nation's vice campaigner in chief went on the attack against Republicans this week, clad in full populist armor. "These guys don't have a sense of the average folks out there," said The Everyman. "They don't know what it means to be middle class." But who was his audience?
Nope, not blue-collar workers in Allentown, Pa. Biden was speaking to an exclusive club of $10,000-per-couple campaign donors gathered at the home of the Senate's $200 million man, Democratic Mass. Sen. John Kerry, in Georgetown, D.C.
That's smack dab in the middle of Beltway America, where they like a twist of cognitive dissonance with their aperitifs.
The White House is once again drawing on the fantastical myth of middle-class Joe to portray Republicans as out-of-touch elitists. A Washington Post headline described Biden "digging back into his roots to move Obama forward." But the administration's leading populist poster child is a wretched symbol of entrenched Washington power. And his fables are getting oldy-moldy.
At another campaign event in Ohio, Regular Joe rolled up his sleeves and pumped out the common-man colloquialisms. "It's good to have a dad in the automobile business, man," he said. Yeah, man. Preach it, man. Oh, hey, weren't you the man who savaged average-guy Joe "the Plumber" Wurzelbacher in Ohio four years ago by lying about his income and mocking his American dream to own a small business? Man.
While Biden's family came from humble beginnings, the wheeler-dealer politician and his family (including two lobbyist sons) have reaped the benefits of public office for nearly a half-century. The entrenched senior senator from Delaware amassed wealthy donors and crooked cronies over six Senate terms. These are some of the stories, reported in my book "Culture of Corruption," that have been whitewashed out of the loquacious veep's campaign folklore:
—Biden's custom-built house in Delaware's ritziest Chateau Country neighborhood, assessed at $2.5 million four years ago, is the Bidens' most valuable asset. He secured the estate with the help of a corporate executive who worked for Biden's top campaign donor, credit card giant MBNA.
In 1996, Biden sold his previous mansion to MBNA Vice Chairman John Cochran. The asking price was $1.2 million. Cochran forked over the full sum. Biden then paid $350,000 in cash to real estate developer Keith Stoltz for a 4.2-acre lakefront lot. Stoltz had paid that same amount five years earlier for the undeveloped property.
—Among Pal Joey's dearest old pals: campaign finance "rainmaker" William Oldaker, who showered generous benefits on both the elder Biden and his lobbyist son, Hunter; Baltimore-based Peter Angelos, whose law firm gave Biden $156,250; Wilmington-based Young Conaway Stargatt and Taylor, which kicked in $127, 979; and Pachulski Stang Zielhl and Jones, which donated $145,625, according to The American Lawyer.
—Disgraced trial lawyer Richard Scruggs donated $11,500 to Biden in 2008. After Scruggs was convicted of attempting to bribe a federal judge, Biden tried to show his ethical bona fides by donating the money to a worthy charity. But Biden couldn't steer clear of nepotism. The money ended up with the National Prostate Cancer Coalition — a charity where, The American Lawyer pointed out, Biden's son Hunter sits on the board of directors.
—Another Biden family pal in the trial lawyers' community: Jeff Cooper. With his partner, John Simmons, the 39-year-old Cooper built one of the biggest asbestos litigation firms in the country. SimmonsCooper, based in Madison County, Ill., has donated a whopping $196,050 to Biden's campaigns since 2003, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, D.C. In that same time frame, the firm poured $6.5 million into lobbying against a key tort reform bill — which Sen. Biden worked hard to defeat. Without a hint of irony, Cooper extolled Biden's anti-tort reform stance: "He understands the plight of the little guy and is against huge corporate interest." But what Biden did was help fuel lucrative business for the tort bar. When courts in SimmonsCooper's home base in Illinois finally started cracking down on what had become "America's No. 1 judicial hellhole" for filing out-of-control tort claims, the firm turned East. And in Joe Biden's Delaware, they created a new sanctuary.
Back on Obama 2012 Fantasy Island, Biden insists on marketing himself as the humble "son of an automobile man." Give him this: He spins like a used-car salesman. His lot's full of lemons. And "bamboozle" is his middle name.
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