Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, a famed Mississippi trial attorney, was close to a historic deal to force tobacco companies to pay billions of dollars, but there was one last hurdle. A divided Congress had to sign off. Scruggs had identified one of the most skeptical senators, Joe Biden, as key to winning the vote. Scruggs turned to Biden’s younger brother James, an old acquaintance who ran a D.C. consulting firm with his wife, Sara. Scruggs paid the firm $100,000 in 1998 for advice, reports the Washington Post. “I probably wouldn’t have hired him if he wasn’t the senator’s brother,” Scruggs said. Biden eventually backed the bill, which failed to pass Congress. “Jim was never untoward about his influence,” Scruggs said. “He didn’t brag about it or talk about it. He didn’t have to. He was the man’s brother.”
Scruggs’s deal with James Biden highlights how President Biden’s brother has benefited financially from his proximity to his powerful sibling, a relationship that is newly relevant today as congressional Republicans investigate whether the president assisted his family members’ business deals. During Joe Biden’s 36 years in the Senate, eight years as vice president and three years as president, James Biden’s private business work — as a consultant for hire and behind-the-scenes political fixer — has often intersected with his brother’s public responsibilities. For months, the probe has focused on the president’s son Hunter but the House Oversight Committee hasy issued subpoenas for James and Sara Biden to testify, drawing attention to James Biden’s unique role in his brother’s life and career. “Jim Biden’s consulting work has never involved speaking with or providing access to his brother for this or any other client,” said his lawyer, Paul Fishman. James and Sara Biden’s ties to Scruggs brought them to the periphery of a sweeping federal investigation, one that led to the trial lawyer’s downfall in 2008 over a bribery scheme.