Former director of the Office of Government Ethics Walter Shaub isn’t cutting President Joe Biden any slack just because he’s a Democrat and better than Donald Trump on ethics. Shaub slammed the president Friday over coveted administration jobs going to aides’ relatives after candidate Biden had sharply criticized Trump for nepotism.
“We’re in trouble as a nation if ‘better than Trump is good enough’ becomes the standard for ethical behavior,” Shaub wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post.
“We need active measures to overcome the pernicious influence of family connections, cronyism and systemic racism,” he added. “Otherwise, implicit bias will surely get America more appointees from privileged backgrounds, insulated from the needs of the broader public.”
Biden pledged that his children, unlike Trump’s, would never “have offices in the White House,” Shaub noted. So it’s “troubling that so many relatives of top Biden appointees are landing jobs in his administration,” he added.
The Post last week identified 11 family members of Biden aides employed in various administration posts. The actual numbers may be higher.
“Whatever Biden meant when he promised a better way, it seems his administration now interprets that promise as narrowly applicable to his [immediate] family,” Shaub wrote.
Granted, Trump was worse. Trump not only doled out top jobs to completely politically inexperienced daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner, his administration also employed multiple members of at least 20 families, The Daily Beast discovered.
But one “egregious” example of nepotism — in the Biden administration — is the family of one of Biden’s closest advisers, Steven Ricchetti. Three of Ricchetti’s children work in the administration, and a fourth child has worked for a member of Congress for two years, Shaub noted. (Ricchetti’s brother also works as a Washington lobbyist.)
Ricchetti’s son J.J. “scored a political position in the Treasury Department’s legislative affairs office” after simply graduating from college, nailing a position that typically requires some standout experience, Shaub noted.
“These are no ordinary entry-level jobs,” he writes. “A political appointment in a Cabinet agency … is a coveted prize that adds sparkle to a résumé,” one chased by thousands of campaign workers, including countless who are not politically connected and are people of color.
“Rather than broadening diversity, J.J.’s hiring gave the political class one more well-to-do White son of privilege,” Shaub wrote. The Treasury Department will “lack the ideas and experiences that someone with a different background (and probably better qualifications) would have brought to the job,” he added.
Shaub warns that “fixing these flaws is a tall order. Tolerating the appearance of nepotism is no way to show we are capable of confronting even our smallest problems.”
Read Shaub’s entire op-ed here.