The US government’s former ethics chief is slamming the Biden administration for a potentially “illegal” nepotism spree, saying that it “royally sucks” and is “a real ‘f— you’” to ethical governance.
Walter Shaub, director of the US Office of Government Ethics from 2013 to 2017, gained fame for frequently faulting the Trump administration, but turned his fire on President Biden on Friday.
“I’m sorry, I know some folks don’t like hearing any criticism of him. But this royally sucks. I’m disgusted. A lot of us worked hard to tee him up to restore ethics to government and believed the promises. This is a real ‘f— you’ to us—and government ethics,” Shaub tweeted.
Shaub was responding to reports that many children, spouses and siblings of top Biden aides got official jobs — despite harsh criticism of President Donald Trump for naming his daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as unpaid White House advisers.
“Pathetic!” Shaub wrote. “The responses from people who spent 4 years complaining the other side was putting party over country are pathetic. They sound just like MAGAs. The jobs went to privileged kiddos with mommies & daddies who cozied up to POTUS. Nepotism is illegal.”
Many of Biden’s closest aides, who followed him into the White House after working for him when he was a senator and vice president, have had family members score government gigs, including but not limited to Secretary of State Tony Blinken, national security adviser Jake Sullivan and White House press secretary Jen Psaki, who each have direct family members working for the federal government.
In an all-caps tweet, Shaub noted: “EVEN THE F-ING HEAD OF PRESIDENTIAL PERSONNEL, WHO IS SUPPOSED TO BE KEEPING THEM HONEST, HAS A CHILD WHO’S A RECENT COLLEGE GRAD WORKING IN THE ADMINISTRATION. AND THE SPOUSE OF THE WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. This is ridiculous. What a f—ing failure.”
Shaub wrote that the nepotism is “a sign of much bigger rot.”
“I’m the stupid moron who fell for his false promises. I wasn’t naive enough to think he’d be a transformative president. He told us he’d be plain vanilla. But I thought there was momentum behind his ethics promises. Boy was I stupid,” Shaub wrote.
JJ Ricchetti, son of White House counselor Steve Ricchetti and a 2020 college grad, recently got a job at the Treasury Department. Ricchetti’s daughter, Shannon Ricchetti, also in her 20s, works in the office of the White House social secretary. The elder Ricchetti’s brother runs a DC consulting firm, also drawing other ethics concerns.
White House deputy chief of staff Bruce Reed, another longtime Biden aide, has a daughter, Julia Reed, who works in the West Wing as Biden’s scheduler.
Most executive branch appointments are handled by the White House Office of Presidential Personnel, which is led by Cathy Russell, whose daughter Sarah Donilon, a 2019 college grad, works at the White House National Security Council. A White House official anonymously told the Washington Post that Russell does not influence NSC hiring. Russell’s brother-in-law Mike Donilon is a senior adviser to Biden and is widely regarded as a powerful influence on the president.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki’s sister, Stephanie Psaki, works at the Department of Health and Human Services as a senior adviser.
White House chief of staff Ron Klain’s wife, Monica Medina, is nominated to be assistant secretary of state for oceans and international environmental and science, which requires Senate confirmation.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan’s wife, Meggie Goodlander, is a counsel to Attorney General Merrick Garland. His brother, Tom Sullivan, works at the State Department. Sullivan’s sister-in-law, Rose Sullivan, works at the Department of Health and Human Services.
Shaub wrote, “The White House’s defense that they had the minimum qualifications is total BS. The issue isn’t whether they were qualified (some weren’t). It’s that a WH that promised diversity is giving these privileged white kids with connected mommies and daddies prime jobs over others!”
Shaub, who now leads the Ethics and Accountability Initiative at the Project on Government Oversight, added that nepotism wasn’t the only thing that bothered him about Biden’s team.
“We’ve got a Raytheon board member leading DOD. We’ve got private equity fund people in the WH and at State. You’ve got corporate execs and big firm lawyers who represent corporations throughout. And personnel is policy,” he wrote.
“But authoritarianism & corruption go hand in hand. If we don’t clean up govt, we’re setting the table for the next authoritarian. Speaking of which, Biden’s administration is fighting tooth & nail to stop Congressional oversight—not just of this admin but of the Trump admin too!”