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Obama, Biden's Son Linked by Earmarks

Now that Sen. Joseph Biden, left, is the Democratic vice presidential candidate, congressional ties to his lobbyist son Hunter, right, are coming under scrutiny.
Now that Sen. Joseph Biden, left, is the Democratic vice presidential candidate, congressional ties to his lobbyist son Hunter, right, are coming under scrutiny. (By Scott Olson -- Getty Images)
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By James V. Grimaldi and Kimberly Kindy
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sen. Barack Obama sought more than $3.4 million in congressional earmarks for clients of the lobbyist son of his Democratic running mate, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, records show. Obama succeeded in getting $192,000 for one of the clients, St. Xavier University in suburban Chicago.

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Obama's campaign has taken a hard stance against the world of lobbying in the nation's capital. Obama said he limits his own efforts to get money for pet projects -- a process known as earmarking -- to those that benefit the public. He has posted his earmark requests on his presidential campaign Web site to encourage transparency.

Since Obama announced his selection of Biden on Saturday, attention has focused on Biden's lobbying connections as well as his son's lobbying activities. R. Hunter Biden is one of many relatives of members of Congress who work as lobbyists.

The younger Biden started his career as a lobbyist in 2001 and has registered to represent about 21 clients that have brought in $3.5 million to his Washington firm, according to lobbying disclosure forms.

Sen. Biden has collected more than $6.9 million in campaign contributions from lobbyists and lawyers since 1989, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

A spokesman for the Obama campaign said that Hunter Biden himself has never lobbied his father. Another lobbyist in the firm successfully sought an earmark from the senator for the University of Delaware. But Hunter did not work on the account, the spokesman said.

Campaign spokesman David Wade also said Hunter Biden never appealed directly to Obama.

"Hunter Biden met with the Obama Senate office, not with Senator Obama," Wade said. "It's hardly surprising that a Senator from Illinois would fight for investments in Mercy Hospital, Thorek Hospital and St. Xavier University right in Illinois, or that he'd be joined in that effort by a Republican colleague, Representative Judy Biggert."

Hunter Biden, a 38-year-old Georgetown graduate and Yale-trained lawyer, is a name partner in the firm Oldaker, Biden & Belair, founded by William Oldaker, an election lawyer and lobbyist who worked on Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's 1980 presidential campaign and has been a fundraiser and campaign adviser for Sen. Biden.

An analysis for The Washington Post by Taxpayers for Common Sense of Hunter Biden's firm's lobbying business found that its clients collected $2.7 million in earmarks in the last fiscal year.

One of those clients was St. Xavier University, a four-year, 5,600-student institution run by the Roman Catholic Sisters of Mercy in Orland Park, Ill. Steve Murphy, vice president for university advancement, said Hunter Biden approached him in 2005 offering to secure congressional earmarks.

Hunter Biden and his colleague, Eric Schwerin, told Murphy they were "working with a number of clients, institutions like yours, and we would like to help you identify earmarks, federal support and grants."


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