White House says no issue with Biden's son, Ukraine gas company

WASHINGTON Tue May 13, 2014 6:28pm EDT

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WASHINGTON May 13 (Reuters) - The White House on Tuesday brushed aside questions about whether the involvement of Vice President Joe Biden's son in a Ukrainian natural gas company raised ethical issues at a time when the administration is promoting energy diversity in the country.

R. Hunter Biden, a lawyer and a partner in an investment firm, was named this week to the board of directors of Burisma Holdings, a private company that has drilled for natural gas in Ukraine since 2002.

In a statement on Burisma's website, Hunter Biden said he would help the company with "transparency, corporate governance and responsibility, international expansion," and other issues.

Ukraine depends on Russia for most of its natural gas, and has accused Moscow of hiking natural gas prices as punishment for moving closer to the European Union.

In April, the vice president traveled to Kiev and discussed how the United States could help provide technical expertise for expanding domestic production of natural gas.

Asked by a reporter whether Hunter Biden's appointment to the company presented a conflict, White House spokesman Jay Carney said it did not.

"Hunter Biden and other members of the Biden family are obviously private citizens, and where they work does not reflect an endorsement by the administration or by the vice president or president," Carney said.

Kendra Barkoff, a spokeswoman for Vice President Biden said he "does not endorse any particular company and has no involvement with this company."

The head of a watchdog group on government ethics said there was no inherent conflict in Biden's job.

"It can't be that because your dad is the vice president, you can't do anything," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

"The most important thing is for Biden not to be speaking about these issues with his dad, and for them to try and draw the lines," she said. (Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Ken Wills)

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