Twitter is abuzz with questions about the involvement of Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter with a gas company in Ukraine. The company, Burisma, allegedly appointed Hunter Biden to its board of directors. In late April, around the time the vice president made an official trip to Ukraine, Burisma allegedly appointed Devon Archer, one of Hunter Biden’s business partners, to its board as well. Here’s a brief write-up on the story from the Moscow Times, an English-language news service based in Russia.
These dual announcements raise more questions than they answer. The prominence of the individuals involved — Hunter Biden is the vice president’s son, while Devon Archer was a major bundler for John Kerry and also his stepson’s college roommate — raises the question of whether the entire thing is a hoax.
1. What is Burisma?
Burisma appears to be a Ukrainian energy company with a focus on oil and gas exploration. However, independent information about the company is hard to find and even harder to verify. According to Businessweek:
Burisma Holdings Limited engages in oil and gas exploration and production. The company also engages in oil well drilling, production of liquefied natural gas, and undertaking geological studies. The company was incorporated in 2006 and is based in Limassol, Cyprus.
2. Is Burisma even a real company?
The company’s website is…rough, at best, and the domain does not appear to have even been registered until 2010 even though the company was allegedly founded in 2002 and incorporated in 2006. And as recently as July of 2013, the website was not even written in English.
Basic information about the business is also difficult to find. Joe Weisenthal of Business Insider noted on Twitter that the company lacked a profile in Bloomberg, an extensive database of business information, and had no Wikipedia presence whatsoever. Businessweek contained only a brief blurb about the company, stating that it was incorporated in 2006 and based in Cyprus.
Is Burisma a real company? Not one mention in the history of Bloomberg. No Wikipedia page, etc.
— Joseph Weisenthal (@TheStalwart) May 13, 2014
3. Who is Hunter Biden?
Hunter Biden is Vice President Joe Biden’s son. He currently serves as the managing partner of Rosemont Seneca Partners, a financial and policy advisory firm. He was a long-time federal lobbyist, but left his old firm in September of 2008, before his father was elected as vice president.
4. Who is Devon Archer?
Devon Archer is a wealthy investor and Democratic campaign bundler with long ties to the family of Secretary of State John Kerry. He was the college roommate of Christopher Heinz, Kerry’s stepson, and also served as co-chair of the national finance committee for Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. According to a 2004 profile in the New York Observer:
Mr. Archer represents a new breed of fund-raiser. In this age, the person with the most connections, who collects contributions from the widest circle of friends and contacts, has become the new macher in party politics.
You could call Mr. Archer a “baby bundler,” a well-connected macher-in-training who has spent every free moment of the last two years tapping friends, family, business partners and even Republicans for contributions to the Kerry cause. Ever since the Massachusetts Senator announced his candidacy in 2003, the dimple-cheeked Mr. Archer has dedicated himself to hosting cocktail parties at old-boy hideaways like the University Club and the Links Club, attending weekly finance-committee pow-wows and dialing, dialing, dialing for dollars. He has coaxed as little as $50 from his friends and cajoled the maximum, $2,000, from his family and business associates. In the process, he has outpaced veteran bundlers more than twice his age and joining the finance committee alongside such finance gurus as Steven Rattner and Richard Holbrooke.
Now his hard work is paying off, with the kind of convention access lowly Hill staffers can only dream of. He has a room at the Four Seasons Hotel, tickets to all the hot parties, access to the convention floor and face time with Mr. Kerry. The convention is his induction into the Democratic elite, and when the bunting comes down and the four-day Boston romp is done, there will be little doubt that Mr. Archer is the Democratic equivalent of a made man.
5. Did Hunter Biden actually get appointed to Burisma’s board (and if so, did he accept the appointment)?
As of this morning, all we really had to go on regarding Biden’s involvement with Burisma is a press release from the company’s website. When Rosemont Seneca Partners, Biden’s firm, was contacted to confirm whether the board appointment announcement was accurate, the company refused to comment on Biden’s involvement with Burisma. However, according to at least one White House correspondent, White House press secretary Jay Carney effectively confirmed the appointment earlier this afternoon.
Carney says Hunter Biden is a private citizen; his work at Burisma does not reflect an endorsement by the VP or the Admin
— Jared Rizzi (@JaredRizzi) May 13, 2014
Politico also appears to have confirmed the board appointment:
Hunter Biden, the younger son of Vice President Joe Biden, will be joining Ukraine’s largest private gas producer, the company announced in a statement
“The company’s strategy is aimed at the strongest concentration of professional staff and the introduction of best corporate practices, and we’re delighted that Mr. Biden is joining us to help us achieve these goals,” Alan Apter, Burisma Holdings’ chairman of the board of directors, said in a statement, which was reported by The Moscow Times on Tuesday.
Biden, joining the board, will be in charge of the legal unit, the company said and will provide support for Burisma Holdings “among international organizations.”
6. What about Devon Archer? Is he actually on the company’s board?
Again, all we have to go on is a single press release posted on the company’s web page. Rosemont Seneca Partners also refused to comment on Archer’s involvement with Burisma. However, given the apparent confirmation of Biden’s appointment by the White House earlier this afternoon, it is probably safe to assume that Archer’s appointment did, in fact, happen.
7. Why would a Ukrainian energy company want Devon Archer or Hunter Biden to serve on its board?
Assuming that they have been appointed to the board, the most innocent explanation is that the company wants to increase foreign direct investment and views Archer and Biden as having the experience to make that happen. Archer, for example, is a long-time investor and financier.
The most disturbing explanation is that the company is attempting to curry favor with the U.S. government by enlisting the services of the close family friend and campaign bundler of the Secretary of the State and the son of the vice president. After all, Archer notes on one of his company’s web pages that his firm’s “relationship network creates opportunities for our portfolio companies which then compound to greater outcomes for all parties.”
8. How does Joe Biden have anything to do with this?
As far as we know, he doesn’t have anything to do with it at this point. However, he did visit Ukraine a day before Archer was allegedly appointed to Burisma’s board. And the White House announced yesterday, shortly before Hunter Biden’s alleged appointment to Burisma’s board was announced, that the vice president would visit Cyprus next week. According to the brief Businessweek profile of Burisma, the company is officially located in Cyprus.
9. This has to be a hoax, right?
It’s so bizarre that you almost have to assume it’s a hoax. It sounds more like a cliched movie plot — a shady foreign oil company co-opts the vice president’s son in order to capture lucrative foreign investment contracts — than something that would actually happen in real life. But the indications as of this afternoon are that the board appointments actually happened, and that a Ukrainian energy company has retained the counsel of the vice president’s son and the Secretary of State’s close family friend and top campaign bundler.