United States President Joe Biden speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington on July 20, 2021.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
The brother of one of President Joe Biden’s closest advisers was lobbying members of General Motors’ National Security Council during the second quarter, according to a new disclosure report audited by CNBC.
The report reveals that Jeff Ricchetti, the brother of White House advisor Steve Ricchetti, worked with the NSC on behalf of the auto giant on “China-related issues.” The company paid Ricchetti $ 60,000 for lobbying last quarter.
Jeff Ricchetti’s lobbying for the NSC, which is part of the president’s executive office, comes as he tries to publicly distance his work from his brother who, among other things, helped secure an infrastructure deal between the White House and senior lawmakers.
The NSC is chaired by the President himself and the Council can be attended by the Vice President, Foreign Secretary, Treasury Secretary, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Director of National Intelligence, and other senior administrative officials.
Ricchetti Inc., the company jointly founded by Jeff and Steve Ricchetti, had not yet lobbyed the National Security Council, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics.
Jeff Ricchetti said in an email to CNBC that he is no longer lobbying the White House office, which is currently run by Biden’s Chief of Staff Ron Klain. He failed to answer several other questions, including those he spoke to on behalf of GM on the National Security Council, and in particular what he was lobbying about on China.
There are several ways Ricchetti can access the White House without going through the White House office, including the National Security Council.
GM initially did not return a request for comment. Following the release, a company spokeswoman sent a statement to CNBC that did not address the details of Jeff Ricchetti’s work.
“Jeff Ricchetti and other lobbyists who have signed up on our behalf are helping GM advocate policies that support our customers, dealers and employees, strengthen our manufacturing presence in the United States, and our vision of a world without crashes, zero “Advance emissions and zero traffic jams,” said the spokeswoman.
The company had previously tried to convince the Trump administration to remove tariffs on its China-made Buick Envision vehicle. The previous government denied this request. The GM spokeswoman stated that Ricchetti had not spoken to the NSC about tariffs. General Motors CEO Mary Barra, along with other auto managers, had a virtual meeting with Biden to discuss a semiconductor chip shortage.
The Biden administration has continued much of the Chinese trade policies implemented under Trump, including extensive tariffs on Chinese exports.
The recent disclosure of Ricchetti’s lobbying work has been a red flag for ethics professionals. Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics under Obama and briefly under President Donald Trump, told CNBC in an email on Monday that Steve Ricchetti could easily tell his brother to stop messing with the executive office of of the President to avoid ethical scrutiny.
“Jeff Ricchetti is not a government official, so Steve Ricchetti cannot control him, but he could at least publicly ask him to stop lobbying the president’s executive office,” said Shaub. “But that’s probably too much to hope for from a man who has apparently turned this administration into an employment agency for his offspring.”
Steve Ricchetti’s son, JJ Ricchetti is one of a handful of his children who got jobs in the Biden administration.
“What these people do makes it harder to get the public to care about government ethics. Shoot, it makes it harder to convince them that something like this can even exist. Thanks for that, Ricchettis. I hope you enjoy the money. ”Shaub added.
A White House spokesman referred CNBC to the NSC, which did not return a request for comment.
White House Adviser Steven Ricchetti will be seen at the Capitol the day the Senate will vote on the For the People Act on Tuesday, June 22, 2021.
Tom Williams | CQ Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images
The Wall Street Journal reported that Jeff Ricchetti raised nearly $ 1.7 million in fees for the first half of 2021, more than four times the amount his company paid for the same period last year.
CNBC first reported in April that Jeff Ricchetti was lobbying the President’s Executive Office on behalf of major healthcare companies in the first quarter of 2021.
Upon joining the new administration, ethics officials told CNBC that Steve Ricchetti himself would be under pressure to withdraw from some matters that may be related to his brother’s business. Steve Ricchetti eventually pulled out of anything to do with his brother or his extensive customer base.
CNBC also previously reported that Steve and Jeff Ricchetti are not discussing their separate professional careers.