Art gallery depicting Hunter Biden received $ 500,000 COVID loan
A federal COVID loan to the art gallery representing Hunter Biden more than doubled after his father took office, records show.
The Georges Berges Gallery initially received a $ 150,000 COVID “disaster assistance loan” from the Small Business Administration last year, according to public records.
But the loan was recently “overhauled,” with the SBA approving an additional $ 350,000 to the SoHo gallery this summer, according to records.
The approval came on July 26, with the prospect of the exclusive marketing by Berges of 15 paintings of the son scarred by the president’s scandal, according to public records.
In addition to COVID disaster assistance loans, the SoHo Gallery received nearly $ 80,000 in two installments in April 2020 and February 2021 as part of the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program, funds intended to help businesses track employee paychecks during the pandemic.
In total, $ 580,000 in taxpayer-funded COVID relief aid was distributed to a gallery with just two employees, according to SBA records.
Berges declined to respond specifically to repeated requests from The Post as to whether the Bidens were interceding in his loans; whether any government money went directly to Hunter Biden as a salary or allowance; or if one of them has been used to market his work of art.
“I received my PPP loan in April 2020 when Donald Trump was President, along with countless other galleries to which, given a global pandemic was occurring, we were perfectly entitled to. … Most of the galleries received this loan, ”Berges told the Post in an email. “We were not unique.
While there is no evidence that President Biden helped secure the additional loan of $ 350,000, a watchdog group has discovered that over 100 galleries in New York’s 10th Congressional District, which includes SoHo , TriBeCa and Chelsea, the Georges Berges Gallery received “by far” the SBA’s largest disaster loan deal.
“We have reached a new low in US politics where the president’s son is getting his quarantine crisis art career funded by the American people as part of our response to the COVID pandemic,” said Tom Anderson, director of the Government Integrity Project at the National Legal and Policy Center.
The Virginia-based organization this week filed a complaint with the SBA challenging taxpayer-funded loans to the gallery and noting the gap in its loan size compared to other local galleries.
“You can’t make it up,” Anderson said, adding that federal loan funds could have been used to promote Biden’s work – a possible ethics violation. “This is a unique situation in which the president’s son benefits directly from federal loans to a third party,” he said.
Another government ethics expert questioned the gallery owner’s loan.
“If he [Georges Berges] got special treatment on the president’s loans, that could be problematic, ”said Richard Painter, University of Minnesota law professor and former White House chief legal adviser to President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2007.
Berges, 45, told the Post he met Biden through collectors in Los Angeles two and a half years ago and helped the largely self-taught and once-addicted entrepreneur transform his expressionist painting. view of a hobby into a full time job. job.
Last week, Berges hosted a vernissage for 200 celebrities and collectors at Milk Studios in Los Angeles. Guests, including Mayor of Los Angeles and candidate Biden for Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti and former boxer Sugar Ray Leonard, munched on appetizers as they viewed Biden’s canvases and prints, including the award. is between $ 75,000 and $ 500,000.
An exhibition of the work that was scheduled to open at the SoHo gallery this month has been postponed until the spring, a source told The Post on Thursday.
Even before the LA show, Biden sold five prints, worth $ 75,000 each, The Post revealed this week. In an interview with The Post on Saturday, the Berges publicist denied that any of Biden’s prints had been sold and did not say when the exhibition of Biden’s work would open at the gallery, citing security concerns.
In an effort to prevent influence peddling, the White House has promised that buyers of Biden’s artwork will remain anonymous and that gallery owner Berges will not disclose their identity to the president. But critics have already pointed out that the artist’s participation in publicity events to promote his work makes this arrangement difficult to enforce. “I’ve said all along that it’s not going to work to make him anonymous,” Painter said. “The word will come out. “
Congresswoman Claudia Tenney, a Northern Republican and a member of the House Small Business Committee, noted that “Hunter Biden’s recent hijacking into the art world is a perfect example of the crooks of Washington DC enjoying public service.
“The revelations that Hunter Biden’s art broker got a massive loan from the SBA further erode public trust in the president, just when you thought it couldn’t drop any further,” he said. she told The Post.
A spokesperson for the SBA did not discuss individual loans, but said that under the Biden administration, small businesses could apply for or “revise” their loan for exponentially higher amounts. “Businesses can request an additional raise even if they have applied for and received previous loans,” said Matthew Coleman, New York spokesperson for the SBA.
The SBA’s long-term loans, which carry favorable interest rates of 3.75%, may be secured against personal property, but public land records show that the gallery did not use any of its assets as collateral. .
The SBA approved more than $ 270 billion in COVID relief loans to small businesses in fiscal 2021, which ended last month.
In addition to Biden, the West Broadway gallery, which has an outlet in Berlin, represents 18 other artists.
Biden, 51, began painting a few years ago, in part to combat alcohol and drug addictions, struggles he documented in “Beautiful Things,” a memoir published in April.
Additional reporting by Jon Levine