When it comes to ethical conduct in politics, appearances often matter as much as reality. The latest example is White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients, whose family seems to have gained substantially from a Biden administration green initiative. Companies tied to Zients’ family struck gold — or, in this case, nickel — thanks to a U.S.-brokered deal in Africa.
In March 2023, the Biden administration partnered with TechMet, led by Zients’ brother-in-law Brian Menell, and Lifezone Metals to source nickel from Tanzania. The catch? A trust for Zients’ adult children owned over 400,000 shares of Lifezone before it went public on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in July. Lifezone’s share price spiked by 60% on its first day, though it’s unclear how much Zients’ family pocketed from this.
Maintaining ethical standards ins’t always easy for the Biden adminhttps://t.co/zF8VeyMZZb
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) September 13, 2023
Nickel is crucial for making lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles (EVs), a key pillar in Biden’s climate agenda. But when family ties blend too closely with policy directives, questions of ethics and conflict of interest are bound to arise.
Though Zients recused himself from matters involving TechMet, the lines between ethical governance and advantageous positioning appear blurry. “Zients informed vetting and ethics lawyers about TechMet as part of the standard onboarding process for his hiring,” said White House spokesperson Saloni Sharma. However, watchdogs like Michael Chamberlain, director of Protect the Public’s Trust, aren’t convinced. According to him, this situation is another instance where the Biden administration has brought in “highly conflicted individuals to important positions.”
The federal backing for TechMet isn’t a new phenomenon. The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation invested $25 million in the company in 2020 and committed another $30 million in 2022. But the Biden administration’s active facilitation of a deal involving a company led by a family member of its Chief of Staff raises eyebrows, especially when public funds and foreign policy are at play.
Pete McGinnis, communications director for the Functional Government Initiative, sums it up aptly: “When a senior White House official and his family members can be linked on opposite sides of the transactions to one of these high-profile — and lucrative — allocations of U.S. taxpayer funds, alarm bells should go off.”
A Gallup poll in August suggested that over half of Americans view the Biden administration’s ethics negatively. Given the latest revelations, those alarm bells might keep ringing, challenging the administration’s claim to be the most “ethically vigorous” in history.