President Joe Biden‘s younger brother Frank Biden worked with a small consulting firm that was involved with federal lobbying on behalf of an oil distribution company, during the last year of the Obama administration.
The consulting company, little-known Delmarva Group, turned to the lobbying shop Cassidy & Associates to represent Maryland-based Chesapeake Petroleum and Supply in targeting congressional lawmakers and the Defense Department in 2016, as Joe Biden was in the final months of his second term as vice president.
The development marks the latest instance of how Frank Biden’s business ties sometimes have coincided with his older brother’s time in office. Last week, CNBC reported that Frank Biden touted his relationship with his brother, and their shared commitment to environmental issues, in a law firm’s newspaper ad that ran on Inauguration Day.
That revelation drew a rebuke from the White House, as Joe Biden has sought to limit ties between his administration and his family’s business dealings.
“The president’s name should not be used in connection with any commercial activities to suggest, or in any way that could reasonably understood to imply, his endorsement or support,” a White House official told CNBC. White House press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated the administration’s position at a news conference last week.
According to his LinkedIn page, Frank Biden served as a “member director” of Delmarva Group starting in 2015. Joseph Abruzzo, a former member of the Florida Legislature and an owner of the now-defunct company, said Monday that Frank Biden didn’t have a formal position with the firm until after Joe Biden was out of office.
“I provided advice and counsel based on my business experience. I had very limited engagement with Delmarva,” Frank Biden told CNBC on Monday.
Abruzzo told CNBC that he and Frank Biden started planning for Delmarva in 2015.
“Frank Biden and I began planning the business in 2015 and had discussions through 2016,” Abruzzo said. “The structural formation and Frank’s formal involvement began in 2017.”
CNBC reviewed several documents, including public records and lobbying disclosure reports, as well as Abruzzo’s financial disclosure reports, to identify the links between Delmarva Group, Cassidy and Chesapeake Petroleum.
The lobbying registration report and subsequent quarterly documents list “Delmarva Group on behalf of Chesapeake Petroleum” as the client.
The Florida address listed on the lobbying reports matches the location on Delmarva’s state disclosures. Delmarva is known to be a reference to the mid-Atlantic peninsula that includes Delaware, which Joe Biden represented for over three decades in the Senate, as well as parts of Maryland and Virginia.
Frank Biden previously told CNBC that he “will never be employed by any lobbyist or lobbying firm.” Indeed, there is no evidence that Biden was involved with the lobbying effort for Chesapeake. Frank Biden has another LinkedIn page that only highlights his work with the Berman Law Group, the Florida law firm that bought the Jan. 20 ad touting the younger Biden’s work as an advisor.
Abruzzo, in a lengthy statement, said that Frank Biden was not involved in any matters related to the Delmarva-Cassidy lobbying effort.
“Frank Biden was not involved in any meetings or discussions or procurement related to Cassidy and Associates or federal lobbying efforts by Cassidy and Associates on behalf of Chesapeake Petroleum and Supply in 2016,” Abruzzo said. “Frank Biden never attended a meeting with Cassidy and Associates or any government agency or official, nor did he communicate in any manner with a government agency or official in 2016 or any other subsequent year on behalf of Chesapeake Petroleum and Supply Co. There was never any federal government business obtained or procured with or through Delmarva Group, LLC. To Delmarva Group’s knowledge, Chesapeake Petroleum and Supply Co. decided not to move forward with expanding their federal government practice.”
He did not say what Biden did for Delmarva. Abruzzo added that Delmarva became inactive in 2018 and closed in January 2020. The Iowa caucuses, the first-in-the-nation nominating contest of the Democratic primary, were held Feb. 3 that year.
In an email, Frank Biden said “Joe is absolutely accurate,” referring to Abruzzo’s statement.
Under the Delmarva heading, Frank Biden’s LinkedIn page says the company acted as “Strategic consultants at point of sale. Alternative Energy and Environmental solutions.”
Chesapeake Petroleum is “an oil distributing company that has served the metropolitan DC area for over 45 years,” according to oil industry website Oil Monster. The website adds that Chesapeake “specializes in passenger car motor oils and carries highly recognizable brands such a Mobil, Castrol, Motorcraft, Mopar and Exxon.”
Chesapeake Petroleum did not return a request for comment.
Abruzzo’s financial disclosures, which he filed as a member of the Florida Legislature, show he owned 50% of Delmarva. He is listed on the businesses’ state filings as the company manager.
In 2019, months before Delmarva filed the paperwork to dissolve, Biden’s campaign released its clean energy proposal. In it, Biden pledges that his campaign would not take money from oil, gas and coal corporations or executives.
Biden’s plan says he will require “aggressive methane pollution limits for new and existing oil and gas operations,” the campaign’s proposal says. Biden recently canceled the permit for the Keystone Pipeline, an oil pipeline between the United States and Canada.
A lobbying registration report shows that Delmarva, on behalf of Chesapeake Petroleum, was a client of Cassidy’s, the lobbying firm. Vernon Simmons, who is now a senior vice president at Cassidy, registered to lobby for Delmarva in April 2016, the registration form says. The focus, according to the document, was to “support wholesale lubricants and automotive supply distributor, market products to federal customers.” The address on the registration form matches the address on Delmarva’s state filings.
Simmons did not return a request for comment.
The second-quarter 2016 lobbying report shows that, between April and June, Simmons targeted members of the House of Representatives and Senate to “promote direct sales of lubricant products & vehicle supplement equipment in DoD [Department of Defense]” for the Delmarva Group on behalf of Chesapeake Partners.
In the third quarter of 2016, a lobbying report shows Simmons lobbied the Department of Defense and Congress for the same cause.
Cassidy was paid $40,000 for its lobbying efforts, the records show. It is not clear how much Chesapeake paid Delmarva for consulting services, or whether Chesapeake or Delmarva paid Cassidy.