Hunter Biden_SBA Complaint 10-8-21On Wednesday, Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, wrote Hunter Biden’s art dealer, Georges Berges, seeking information about the art sales:
“Despite being a novice artist, Hunter Biden received exorbitant amounts of money selling his artwork, the buyers’ identities remain unknown, and you appear to be the sole record-keeper of these lucrative transactions.”
In addition to the sales themselves, Comer’s committee should review government loans provided to Berges through the Small Business Administration (SBA), as exposed by the National Legal and Policy Center in 2021.
In July 2021, to the ridicule of ethics experts, then-White House press secretary Jen Psaki claimed:
“All interactions regarding the selling of art and the setting of prices will be handled by a professional gallerist, adhering to the highest industry standards. And any offer out of the normal course would be rejected out of hand.”
NLPC soon after began scrutinizing the gallerist, Georges Berges, filing a Complaint on October 8, 2021, with the Inspector General of the Small Business Administration (SBA). The Complaint alleged that the Georges Berges Gallery, located in the SoHo section of New York City, appeared to have received more than $500,000 in “loans” for which it may not have been eligible.
The Berges Gallery apparently had only two employees. Tom Anderson, director of NLPC’s Government Integrity Project, reviewed public filings of 100 art galleries in the same area and could not find any other gallery receiving similar “loans.”
The gallery initially received a $150,000 COVID “disaster assistance loan” from the SBA in 2021, but the loan was “revised” in July 2021 for an additional $350,000. This was during the time that the White House announced its plan, and in the run up to an art show at Berges Gallery on October 23, 2021. Berges debuted 15 of Hunter’s paintings, ranging in price from $75,000 to $500,000.
These SBA “disaster relief loans” should not be confused with Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, which do not have to be repaid. The Berges Gallery also received nearly $80,000 in two payments in April 2020 and February 2021 under PPP.
The New York Post put the story of NLPC’s complaint on its front page, headlining it “SKETCHY.” It quoted Anderson: “We’ve reached a new low in American politics where the President’s son gets his midlife crisis art career subsidized by the American people as part of our pandemic response to COVID.”
“You can’t make this up,” Anderson continued. “This is a unique situation in which the president’s son is directly benefiting from federal loans made to a third party.”
Prior to the New York City debut, Berges put on a “pop up” exhibition of Hunter’s art in Los Angeles, attended by about 200 people. Hunter was seen schmoozing with the guests, undercutting claims that he would not know the identities of buyers.
Among the guests was Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who President Biden had nominated to be US ambassador to India. CBS News Radio reporter Steven Portnoy asked Psaki, “Should we expect to see more people who seek jobs in this administration attending events like this in the future?”
‘Hunter Biden Rule’
In October 2020, the Treasury Department had issued a notice to all art dealers, galleries, and museums informing them that they are highly vulnerable to money laundering activities through high-dollar art transactions. The Department also issued a request for public comment on a proposed rule to treat art dealers in the same way it does financial institutions under the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020.
There is no indication that Treasury’s focus on art dealers had anything to do with Hunter Biden, but NLPC submitted a public comment in favor of the proposed rule. Anderson successfully dubbed it the “Hunter Biden Rule,” a characterization that made it into a New York Post headline on October 23, 2021.
Anderson told the Post, “Our best and brightest in the fight against terrorism, money-laundering and corruption have told us loud and clear that the high-end art world Hunter Biden is playing in is now the frontline in their battle. Is the White House listening?”