On Tuesday, Politico published an in-depth interview with Christopher Tigani, a wealthy beer distributor who bundled cash for former Senator Joe Biden’s 2008 presidential campaign. Tigani later confessed to violating campaign-finance laws during that campaign by reimbursing employees for contributions made in their names. Before his confession and sentencing, however, Tigani helped the FBI investigate the inner circle of Biden’s campaign. The story raises questions about the former vice president’s corruption — questions that accentuate the Hunter Biden scandals with Ukraine and China.
Ultimately, only Tigani faced charges for corruption. He was sentenced to two years in federal prison in March 2012. However, the U.S. attorney’s office in Delaware sent a letter detailing the extent of the FBI investigation into Biden’s campaign and the “soft corruption” in Delaware politics, Politico reported.
According to the letter, Tigani’s cooperation with the FBI lasted close to a year, involved 12 meetings with FBI agents, and included recorded telephone and in-person conversations on 17 occasions with six people, including “a high-level official of the Biden for President campaign,” “a former Biden staffer now working as a lobbyist,” and “a prominent Wilmington businessman.”
Tigani’s cooperation did not lead to charges against others because some of the information he provided pertained to activities that were outside the statute of limitations, some of it related to conduct that was not a federal crime, and some of it could not be corroborated, the letter states.
“The information provided by defendant was valuable, however, to the extent that it permitted federal agents to compile detailed historical information regarding election offenses and ‘soft corruption’ in Delaware state government over nearly a decade, which included conduct allegedly committed by federal and state officeholders and/or their campaigns,” the letter states. “Such information will provide federal agents with a frame of reference for future public corruption investigations in this State.”
In other words, the lack of criminal charges following this FBI investigation did not exonerate the Biden campaign. Worse, it shined a light on the corruption of Delaware politics.
“Tigani’s saga provides insight into the political culture from which Biden emerged, the chummy ‘Delaware Way,'” Politico reported. “To its proponents, the Delaware Way entails an approach to politics based on long-term relationships, compromise and civility. It’s a style of governing that comes naturally in a small state. ‘He was kind of the person who helped create the Delaware Way,’ Biden’s former aide and successor in the Senate, Ted Kaufman, recently told the Los Angeles Times, referring to Biden.”
To its critics, however, the Delaware Way “can look like a culture of favor trading and cronyism. In Tigani’s case, prosecutors defined it in a sentencing filing as ‘a form of soft corruption, intersecting business and political interests, which has existed in this State for years.'”
During his year of cooperation with the FBI in 2011, Tigani said his FBI handlers tried to get him in front of various players in the Biden campaign, including the former candidate himself, while wearing a wire. Tigani said he recorded conversations with former Biden finance chief Dennis Toner as well as a businessman close to Biden and a Biden aide-turned-lobbyist.
“Tigani’s saga — the story of a businessman so eager to cultivate relationships with the leaders of his small state that he crossed the line into criminality — offers a window on the Delaware political world from which Biden emerged, one in which long-standing family and social ties often mix freely with business and policymaking,” Politico reported.
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Tigani’s father played football with Joe Biden in high school, and Tigani grew up in contact with Beau and Hunter Biden. The former bundler described a relationship in which he raised funds for the Bidens and then advertised his closeness to the family while navigating the complex regulations connected to liquor distributorship (an overregulated industry). He specifically described a 2011 meeting with a Biden-aide-turned-lobbyist, in which he claimed to have taped the Senate staffer suggesting that the Bidens and Toner knowingly accepted straw donations from bundlers.
As for Tigani, the former bundler said he wanted to share his side of the story because “he felt unfairly scapegoated by media coverage and prosecutors for participating in a political culture that was widespread in Delaware. He said he is irked by the feeling that politicians benefit from an ability to maintain plausible deniability while others take the fall for law-breaking.”
At the time of Tigani’s 2011 guilty plea, a spokeswoman for Joe Biden, then the vice president, denied the VP had any knowledge of the crimes. Biden’s 2020 campaign repeated that denial.
“This matter was thoroughly investigated almost a decade ago by the Department of Justice, and there was no finding, or even allegation, of improper behavior by the 2008 campaign,” Biden spokesman Michael Gwin told Politico. A former assistant U.S. attorney involved in the investigation, Robert Kravetz, said it produced no evidence of Biden wrongdoing.
Yet “The Delaware Way,” the culture of relationships and corruption should sound familiar to observers of Joe Biden’s family.
The exploits of Hunter Biden — who made lucrative business deals in Ukraine and China while his father served as the Obama administration point person in both countries — are well-known, but other members of Biden’s family have traded on the vice president’s famous name for political and business favors. Joe Biden notoriously threatened to pull $1 billion in funding for Ukraine if Ukraine’s president did not fire the prosecutor looking into Burisma, the corrupt company paying Hunter Biden.
“The Delaware Way” should plague Biden’s campaign just as the Clinton Foundation plagued Hillary Clinton’s 2016 race.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.