Investing 15-11-2023 01:12 3 Views

James Comer is mad someone would abuse the term ‘shell company’

On Nov. 14, 2023, Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) was successfully trolled.

The House Oversight Committee, which Comer chairs, was holding a hearing centered on the General Services Administration. It was an unusually unglamorous bit of work for a committee that, under Comer’s leadership, has been at the forefront of alleging (though by no means proving) serious claims of impropriety by President Biden.

But then it was Rep. Jared Moskowitz’s turn to speak. The Florida Democrat quickly went meta, using the microphone to conduct a little oversight of Comer himself.

“I think you owe it to the American people to explain why you’ve gone on Fox News and told people that while the president was out of office, he had a loan with his brother,” Moskowitz said, despite that “it has come out in the public that you also do business with your brother with potential loans.”

Did Comer want to use some of his time to explain, Moskowitz asked? I’d love to, an obviously angry Comer replied.

Comer was clearly aware of what Moskowitz was referring to, an article published last week by the Daily Beast that describes land sales between Comer and his brother. In fact, Comer was aware that Moskowitz had shared the story on social media, at which the chairman took obvious offense. He used an appropriately farm-related descriptor to describe the Daily Beast story as inaccurate and referred to Moskowitz, wearing a blue suit, as a “Smurf.”

He also made a very problematic admission.

The direct comparison drawn in the Daily Beast story (and the one on which Moskowitz was focused) was Comer’s attempt to make financial interactions between Joe Biden and his brother James seem problematic.

Comer’s committee uncovered two payments from James to Joe, for $200,000 and $40,000, each tagged as “loan repayment” on checks signed by James’s wife. Documents seen by The Washington Post link those payments to preceding payments made by Joe to his brother, reinforcing the idea that the money from James was, as the checks written in 2017 and 2018 stated, meant as repayment.

But Comer is on the hook from his peers to prove that Joe Biden is corrupt, so he’s invested a lot of time in the past few weeks claiming that maybe these weren’t loans or, if they were, that being repaid was a net “benefit” for Biden, which is obviously a stretch. And that made the Daily Beast article, claiming that Comer, too, had made a similar payment to his brother, a very frustrating thing to have appear.

To be fair, the Daily Beast article doesn’t exactly land the punch that Moskowitz implied. Roger Sollenberger writes that “Comer channeled extra money to his brother” when Comer bought a property they’d inherited from their father. Comer offered his brother $218,000 for the full property a few months after his brother bought out Comer’s half for $100,000. There’s nothing to suggest that this was a loan, despite Moskowitz’s hinting; Comer forcefully rejected the idea.

But given the opportunity to address the issue, Comer brought up another component of the story, in which Sollenberger notes that a limited liability corporation called Farm Team Properties LLC was also party to the sale.

“It said that it was a shell company because it was an LLC,” Comer fumed. “They’re so financially illiterate that you think because something says LLC, it’s a shell company. This company, which I financially disclose, has properties. It manages over a thousand acres of land for hunting purposes.”

This distinction is important to Comer. Farm Team Properties (of which he is secretary-treasurer, according to his most recent financial disclosure) does something. It’s not just a structure that exists to skirt tax rules and so on — the way the companies created by President Biden’s son Hunter do, went the unspoken implication.

This has been his patter for a while: Hunter Biden was paid money for doing nothing, producing nothing. It’s a useful argument given that few Americans have more nebulous corporate structures than a guy named Donald Trump. It’s also useful because it has traction. What did Biden’s son do?

The answer is “consulting,” which isn’t very satisfying, and “lawyering,” which is only slightly more so. It’s clear that Hunter Biden’s partnerships were often heavily about his last name and the influence that name was perceived to carry, though there’s no evidence that he got his father to act on behalf of his clients. But there do exist descriptions of the sorts of things he did, like that he helped foreign clients find U.S.-based firms for public relations work or worked to secure financing.

But Comer constantly invokes the idea that “the Bidens” — meaning Hunter and his uncle James Biden — had “more than 20 shell companies” that “don’t produce anything. They don’t provide a good or service.”

Most (though not all) of the LLCs set up by Hunter Biden did do something, as The Post’s fact-checking team determined. There was a consulting firm and a law firm and several partnerships. They may not have owned property, but they weren’t solely focused on shuffling money around to trick the IRS.

That’s the question that Comer inadvertently raised in his furious response to Moskowitz. Which is it — are LLCs formed in service of corporate functions “shell companies” or not? Are they inherently dubious or aren’t they?

It’s a small thing, certainly, and one that could have been resolved back when The Post first debunked Comer’s assertions about the Hunter Biden LLCs in August. But Comer’s ferocious denunciation of the idea that only the “financially illiterate” would think that a corporate entity involved in a transaction with his brother (an entity whose president is Comer’s wife, mind you) is suspicious.

There was another apparent error in what Comer said, by the way. He described what it was that Farm Team Properties does, the properties it manages. But according to the state of Kentucky, the corporation was dissolved last year after not filing its required annual report with the state.

Imagine if Hunter Biden did that.

correction

A previous version of this article incorrectly said that Farm Team Properties was dissolved last month. It was dissolved last year. The article has been corrected.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post
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