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President Biden’s son-in-law’s investment in a healthcare company involved in the coronavirus vaccine effort is raising eyebrows in ethical circles after the president pledged that family members would have no influence in government matters, according to a report on Tuesday.
The CEO of Yosi Health Hari Prasad created software that would help make the vaccine process more efficient and sought help from one of his company’s first investors, StartUp Health, which employs Biden son-in-law Howard Krein as its chief medical officer, ABC News reported.
Prasad sought help from StartUp Health in December to pitch their software platform to government health officials, the report said.
”Our goal with StartUp Health is to leverage their relationships and work with state and federal agencies,” he told ABC News.
Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine and China raised concerns during the 2020 presidential campaign about influence peddling, and now Krein’s involvement in the healthcare firm poses more ethical questions for the administration.
The Post, in a series of reports in October, revealed how the younger Biden had a seat on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, while his father was vice president in the Obama administration.
Emails found on a laptop Biden left at a computer repair shop in Wilmington, Del., show that the son introduced a top executive at the company to his father less than a year before the elder Biden pressured Ukraine to fire a top prosecutor who had investigated Burisma.
“Howard Krein is playing with fire,” Meredith McGehee, the executive director of Issue One, a nonpartisan ethics watchdog group, told ABC News. “If he gets too close to that flame – if he is trying to either cash in on his relationship with the president, or he is trying to influence policy – the flame is going to get him. And it is not worth it to him or to Biden.”
In an interview earlier this month, the president vowed that family members will not be involved in foreign policy or government matters.
“We’re going to run this like the Obama-Biden administration. No one in our family and extended family is going to be involved in any government undertaking or foreign policy. And nobody has an office in this place,” Biden said in the interview.
Krein, a noted surgeon from Philadelphia who married Biden’s daughter Ashley in 2012, oversees StartUp Health’s investments in hundreds of companies.
The president has been a supporter of the business Krein started with his brother Steven Krein and tech entrepreneur Unity Stoakes, appearing at corporate conferences and inviting the company’s executives to the White House to meet former President Barack Obama.
Krein also began advising his father-in-law during the campaign in the spring, playing an unofficial role in developing pandemic response plans.
The relationship drew scrutiny at the time because StartUp Health was trying to invest in companies working on products to be used in responding to the coronavirus.
With Biden now in the White House, the questions are getting renewed attention amid the potential for ethical blunders.
“Dr. Krein presents an ethical dilemma because he’s being placed in a position where people want him to deliver access and information that will provide them with a competitive advantage,” Scott Amey, general counsel at the nonpartisan Project on Government Oversight, which investigates possible conflicts of interest and allegations of waste or fraud in federal government, told ABC News.
“At the same time, Biden has to ensure that family and friends’ private matters don’t merge with official government actions,” Amey said. “This situation will take a good amount of transparency and oversight to ensure that lines are not crossed and that ethics standards are upheld.”
StartUp Health and Krein did not respond to requests for comment from ABC News.
A White House spokesman said the president will maintain the “the highest ethical standards for himself, his administration, and those around him.”
“Any implication to the contrary is flatly untrue and unsupported by the facts,” Michael Gwin said.
StartUp Health has touted its Washington connections and has promoted Krein’s travels with Biden to promote cancer research and the former vice president’s speaking appearances at its annual festival.
Krein talked about a White House meeting in a 2015 interview.
“I happened to be talking to my father-in-law that day and I mentioned Steve and Unity were down there [in D.C.],” Krein said. “[Biden] knew about StartUp Health and was a big fan of it. He asked for Steve’s number and said, ‘I have to get them up here to talk with Barack.’ The Secret Service came and got Steve and Unity and brought them to the Oval Office.”
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