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Biden Son-In-Law Advises Campaign on Pandemic Response while Investing in COVID Startups

Joe Biden’s son-in-law Howard Krein is an informal adviser to the Democratic presidential candidate on the response to the coronavirus pandemic, while simultaneously investing in health-care startups to address the pandemic, Politico reported on Tuesday.

Krein’s venture capital business, StartUp Health, announced in April that it would invest in ten medical startup companies that craft solutions to issues posed by the pandemic. At the same time, Krein was among several individuals speaking with the Biden campaign regarding its health policy.

The initiative by StartUp Health was dubbed the “Pandemic Response Health Moonshot,” language that echoes Biden’s own “Cancer Moonshot” project from his last year in the Obama administration.

Krein’s position raises questions about a possible conflict of interest for the Biden campaign. A campaign official confirmed to Politico that Krein was an informal adviser who has participated in calls with the candidate on pandemic response.

“I have little doubt that the relationship to Joe Biden, particularly if he becomes president, would attract the interest of some investors,” Avik Roy, founder of investment firm Roy Healthcare Research, told Politico. Roy is a former adviser to Senators Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) and Mitt Romney (R., Utah).

The news follows a series of disclosures detailing that Biden’s son Hunter pursued while his father was serving as vice president. According to a Senate Intelligence Committee report released in September, “Hunter Biden received millions of dollars from foreign sources as a result of business relationships that he built during the period when his father was vice president of the United States and after.”

In particular, Hunter Biden and his business partner Devon Archer engaged in monetary transactions with Ye Jianming, a Chinese businessman with connections in the Communist Party and People’s Liberation Army. Archer was convicted of defrauding a Native American tribe in 2018, and has a sentencing hearing scheduled for this coming January.

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Biden’s son-in-law advises campaign on pandemic while investing in Covid-19 startups

“StartUp Health is putting the full support of its platform and network behind building a post-Covid world that uses technology and entrepreneurial ingenuity to improve health outcomes,” the firm said at the time.

Krein simultaneously advising the campaign and venturing into Covid investing could pose conflict-of-interest concerns for a Biden administration, or simply create the awkward appearance of Krein profiting off his father-in-law’s policies. Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, the federal government has directed tens of billions of dollars in coronavirus medical spending in areas like testing and vaccine research to private firms. It is poised to spend billions more next year and possibly beyond.

The potential conflicts are not limited to the coronavirus for Krein, 53, a Philadelphia-based head-and-neck surgeon who got into venture investing not long after he began dating Biden’s daughter, Ashley, in 2010.

Since StartUp Health’s 2011 launch, when Krein came on as its chief medical officer, it has invested in more than 300 health care businesses, according to its website, which prominently features the term “moonshot” to describe its investment goals — language that echoes that of Joe Biden’s own signature Cancer Moonshot initiative. In its early years, the firm enjoyed close ties to the Obama administration and described Krein as a White House adviser.

“I have little doubt that the relationship to Joe Biden, particularly if he becomes president, would attract the interest of some investors,” said Avik Roy, founder of Roy Healthcare Research, an investment research firm, and a former adviser to the presidential campaigns of Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

StartUpHealth did not respond to interview requests, and the Biden campaign declined to make Krein or others tied to the company available for interviews. In response to questions, a campaign official said that Krein does not have a formal role with the campaign, but acknowledged that he had participated in calls briefing Biden on coronavirus based on his experience treating patients and coordinating his hospital’s response to the outbreak.

Even informal input or the perception of access can be valuable in health care, a heavily regulated sector that is influenced by federal policy and spending priorities.

“Sometimes the perception is all you need,” said Laura Huang, a professor at Harvard Business School who studies the early-stage investment process. “Signaling is very important for startups and investors alike, and one signal is high-profile individuals who can help provide access.”

Roy said the firm’s Biden ties could also help it land stakes in hot startups that can be choosy about the investors they take money from. “Those companies will take your calls,” he said. “People who are plugged in have an advantage, and that is a common feature of a lot of heavily regulated industries.”

The influence concerns posed by the firm are compounded by its foreign ties. One StartUp Health fund raised $31 million from investors, including the Swiss drugmaker Novartis and the Chinese insurer Ping An, in 2018. The firm’s website also lists the Chinese technology conglomerate

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Australia to Run Record Budget Deficit as Government Cuts Tax, Boosts Job Support | Investing News

By Sam Holmes and Colin Packham

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia pledged billions in tax cuts and measures to boost jobs on Tuesday to help pull the economy out of its historic COVID-19 slump in a budget that tips the country into its deepest deficit on record.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s conservative government has unleashed A$300 billion in emergency stimulus to prop up growth this year, having seen the coronavirus derail a previous promise to return the budget to surplus.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Tuesday announced A$17.8 billion in personal tax cuts and A$5.2 billion in new programmes to boost employment in a recovery plan aimed at creating one million new jobs over the next four years.

Those measures are forecast to push the budget deficit out to a record A$213.7 billion, or 11% of gross domestic product, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2021.

“There is no economic recovery without a jobs recovery,” Frydenberg said in prepared remarks to parliament. “There is no budget recovery without a jobs recovery.”

Australia’s unemployment rate hit a 22-year high of 7.5% in July as businesses and borders closed due to strict lockdown measures to deal with the coronavirus.

While the number of deaths and infections in Australia from COVID-19 has been low compared with many other countries, the hit to GDP has been severe. Underlying the budget forecasts was an assumption that a vaccine would be developed in 2021.

Australia’s A$2 trillion economy shrank 7% in the three months ended June, the most since records began in 1959.

In its new projections, the government expects unemployment to rise to 7.25% by the end of the current fiscal year and then fall to 6% by June 2023. Australia’s GDP is expected to shrink 1.5% for the current fiscal year before returning to growth of 4.75% in the next.

S&P Global Ratings said Australia remained only one of 11 countries with the highest credit rating of AAA, albeit with a negative outlook, and said fiscal recovery would take years.

“While debt is markedly higher than the past, servicing costs remain manageable, as the interest-rate environment will remain favourable for a number of years,” said Anthony Walker, a director at the rating agency.

Gross debt is projected to surpass A$1 trillion in 2021/22, from A$684 billion in 2019/20, and then rise to around A$1.14 trillion by 2023/24.

The government said it will spend A$4 billion over the next year to pay businesses that hire those under the age of 35 as it targets youth unemployment.

The budget also brings forward previously legislated tax cuts for middle-income earners and extends tax breaks for individuals offered in last year’s budget for low- and middle-income earners.

Some of these cuts will be retrospectively backdated to July 1, 2020.

The government’s highly expansionary budget comes shortly after the central bank’s policy decision on Tuesday, at which it kept interest rates at a record low and flagged reducing high unemployment rate as a national priority.

The Reserve Bank of Australia

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