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by John J. “Jack” Partridge, contributing writer and commentator
I recently watched some K Street Washington lobbyist types on a panel cynically defend Hunter Biden as someone being harassed and selectively prosecuted for activities which seem totally involved with entities and foreign governmental agencies seeking to influence our government’s actions, which are at least venial, if not just out right illegal. The panelists’ central theme seemed to be: “you can’t pick your relatives so use them for their names and powerful offices if you can.” Trading on your family name, they inferred, in government is neither illegal nor immoral, it is just the way of the world. If it is not outright bribery of a governmental official, it is quite alright, just a little influence peddling, goes the narrative. Who got hurt if the politicians’ family, if not the politician himself or herself, made a few dollars so long as the politician didn’t influence directly governmental largess or funding?
My answer is that something as obnoxious as influencing peddling for profit cannot pass a moral smell test, and there is something wrong with the politician in question who fails to recognize the odor. For the politician to fail to understand that allowing the sale of the family name and reputation heightens the public’s distrust in our institutions much to the injury of the nation’s morale, or that the source of public unease is not just blatant venality, but the politician’s justification of apparent misuse of public office by the family member when the politician excuses himself or herself by saying “I didn’t get a penny”, or offering the feeble excuse that “I cannot control the actions of others”.
One panel member went so far as to compare the family relationship of presidents John Adams and his son, John Quincy Adams, to Hunter Biden and his father. What a ludicrous comparison demonstrating how deep approval of “influencing” has burrowed into the psyche of the political class in Washington. Quincy Adams had a prestigious family but also intellect and personal merit and ambition that thrust him forward to the presidency, unlike Hunter who seems virtue less, if not clueless. Either Hunter’s father doesn’t care, or approves of a family business based on influence peddling; neither is acceptable, in my view, and the politician who condones it should face consequences for betraying public trust.
A blanket denial of knowledge of the influence peddling or a deliberate “I see no evil” stance as to the relative’s actions should not be a sufficient excuse for the politician. It is up to the politician to have the moral stature to let relatives know that they cannot trade on the family name. Yes, the family members can have careers that are aided or guided by parental achievements, but not trade on them for financial gain with those that seek governmental favors or largess.
To read more columns by Jack go to: https://rinewstoday.com/our-team/john-j-jack-partridge/
John J. ‘Jack’ Partridge, is a retired lawyer and Senior Counsel to the firm of Partridge Snow & Hahn LLP, with four offices in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
A Pawtucket native, Jack graduates from St. Raphael Academy and summa cum laude of Providence College, where he majored in history. After Harvard Law School, he served in the United States Army in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Joint Service Commendation Medal. In 1967, he joined the firm of Tillinghast Collins & Tanner. In 1988, he became a founding partner of Partridge Snow & Hahn LLP.
Jack has been engaged in many civic, political, governmental, and business organizations, serving as legal counsel to the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce for 27 years and was chairman of the Old Slater Mill Association, Common Cause Rhode Island, and Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island.
He is the co-founder of The Pawtucket Foundation and an officer and director of innumerable not-for-profit entities. He served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Pawtucket Boys & Girls Club and was Treasurer of the Ocean State Charities Trust.
Jack has a long history of leadership involvement with Providence College, which recognized him in 1999 with the Providence College Alumni Association Recognition Award for Public and Community Service, and in 2011, with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.
He is married to the former Regina McDonald and has three children: Sarah, Gregory and David.
Jack makes a good argument and uses the Biden family to illustrate his points. I suggest that the Biden issue is currently under investigation. Biden’s predecessor, Trump, would have been a better illustration. The Trump family used the presidency to take in millions if not billions. Hotels, golf courses both home and abroad generated huge dividends for both Trump and his children. Every time Trump played golf on a course he owned, the Secret Service and support staff went along and our tax dollars paid the freight.
The Biden issue will eventually be settled in the courts, as Jack well knows, and while Hunter may be guilty of benefiting off his surname, the courts will decide what was legal or illegal. Maybe, just maybe influence peddling should be seen as a form bribery and be treated as such.
And, the Trumps are in courts all over the country, not for trading on the Trump surname, but for a laundry list of illegalities. Might the Bush family be a candidate as well.