Easy Access: Top Biden Adviser Hosted Lobbyist Brother's Clients at White House

President Joe Biden and adviser Steve Ricchetti / Getty Images
July 8, 2022

It pays to be close to the president—or at least one of his closest advisers.

That's surely what General Motors executives were thinking in recent months when they met with President Joe Biden's adviser Steve Ricchetti, whose brother lobbies for the automaker.

Ricchetti met on March 8 with GM public policy chief Omar Vargas and General Counsel Craig Glidden, according to White House visitor logs released this month. The meeting came weeks after GM chief executive Mary Barra urged Biden to expand subsidies for electric vehicles and increase spending on semiconductor manufacturing. Jeff Ricchetti, the younger brother of the Biden consigliere, lobbies for GM on the same issues. The carmaker has paid Ricchetti $280,000 since hiring him on Feb. 1, 2021, according to lobbying disclosures.

Ethics experts have raised conflict of interest concerns about the Ricchetti brothers' relationship. Richard Painter, the White House ethics lawyer under George W. Bush, told the Washington Free Beacon that Steve Ricchetti should "completely recuse himself from any part of the legislation that his brother’s firm is lobbying on."

The White House ethics office has forced the longtime Biden adviser to recuse himself from matters involving four of his brother's clients, GlaxoSmithKline, Vaxart, Horizon Therapeutics, and TC Energy.

Steve Ricchetti's work on issues related to General Motors has been the subject of scrutiny before. The Washington Post reported last year that when Biden flew to Michigan to discuss plans to build electric vehicle charging stations, Ricchetti remained in Washington to negotiate the bill with Congress. The newspaper questioned whether Ricchetti's involvement undercut Biden's campaign pledge to "restore ethics in government."

General Motors has secured extensive access to the Biden administration, though the meeting in March is the first time company executives are known to have met with Steve Ricchetti. Biden in November visited a GM facility in Michigan. He praised the company in January for announcing a $7 billion investment in an electric vehicle manufacturing plant that will employ 4,000 workers. The carmaker in February hired Biden's niece, Missy Owens, to be its "Environment, Sustainability, and Governance" chief.

Jeff Ricchetti saw an influx of lobbying clients after Biden launched his presidential campaign, a trend that ethics experts have attributed to Ricchetti's brother's close relationship with the president. Ricchetti in early 2019 represented three companies. His firm has added 16 clients since then.

The White House, Ricchetti's lobbying firm, and General Motors did not respond to requests for comment.