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Lawmaker leading Hunter Biden House investigation accused of owning shell company

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

President's son, Hunter Biden, is being investigated for his alleged use of shell companies to hide money from foreign interests and undisclosed sources.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Shell company sounds ominous, a firm that is often created to hide someone's ownership or financial interest in a property. Now the Associated Press reports that a leading investigator of the Bidens is connected with a shell company. The AP bases its findings on interviews and records involving real estate in James Comer's home state of Kentucky. Comer has denied the characterization in an interview on Fox.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JAMES COMER: To say that it's a shell company is either a complete lie that some editor and publisher allowed the AP to do, or it's a perfect example of financial illiteracy.

FADEL: I'm joined now by Brian Slodysko, the AP reporter who wrote that story. Good morning.

BRIAN SLODYSKO: Good morning. Thanks for having me.

FADEL: So, Brian, we just heard Comer there dismissing your story outright. Tell us what you did uncover about his business assets in Kentucky and the sources behind it.

SLODYSKO: Right. Well, what's important to understand about James Comer is that he is a vast landowner in his home county in southern Kentucky. He owns about 16,000 acres of land, and all of those he painstakingly details on his congressional financial disclosures, which all members of Congress are required to submit. That is, except this six acres of land he co-owns with a donor and are held through a limited liability company called Farm Team Properties. That is the exception. And that property, because it is held by this company, he does not have to reveal what the assets held by it are on his financial disclosures.

FADEL: So what potential violations of House rules or campaign finance rules or any rules is Comer violating if this is all true?

SLODYSKO: Well, in this case, all members of Congress are required to reveal any asset they hold in a shell company or a limited liability company if its value is greater than $1,000. Now, in this case, the property that's - the one asset that we know of that is held in this company, from property records we learned that it's soared in value. Initially he valued it at between 50 and $100,000, now the company is worth as much as $1 million. And we just don't know what is held in there.

FADEL: Now, James Comer is leading this probe into Hunter Biden. And the big takeaway in your story is that the accusations that are being leveled against President Biden's son are very similar to what you've reported on Comer. If you could, talk about that.

SLODYSKO: Yeah. Well, he has accused Hunter Biden of using various companies of his to collect money for legal services or consulting fees. And the reality is, is that the company that he has is structured and functions in a very similar way. And it enables Comer to, in this case, avoid disclosure of the assets that he holds.

FADEL: How are other lawmakers responding to what you found? We certainly heard what Comer thinks.

SLODYSKO: Well, I mean, in the hyperpartisan atmosphere of Washington, it falls out along pretty predictable lines. But, you know, Democrats have tut-tutted Comer over this. They've said, well, well, you know, what do we have here? So that has provoked a response from them just because they feel like it's a case where, you know, the pot is calling the kettle black.

FADEL: AP reporter Brian Slodysko on his reporting. Thank you so much for your time.

SLODYSKO: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.