"Can't make this up": Dems troll James Comer with "subpoenas" after $200K loan to brother revealed

Comer has zeroed in on Biden's loan to his brother as evidence of family's "shady business practices"

By Tatyana Tandanpolie

Staff Writer

Published November 9, 2023 2:47PM (EST)

Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., leaves a House Republican Conference speaker of the house meeting in Longworth Building on Friday, October 13, 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., leaves a House Republican Conference speaker of the house meeting in Longworth Building on Friday, October 13, 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Democrats on Thursday mocked House Oversight Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., after The Daily Beast revealed that he loaned his brother $200,000. 

Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Fla., a member of the Oversight committee, trolled Comer by mocking his Wednesday video in which he signed off on subpoenas to President Joe Biden's brother James and son Hunter.

"It has been reported that Comer also loaned his brother $200k. We fully expect James to comply, just like the Trumps," Moskowitz quipped on X/Twitter.

Comer subpoenaed James Biden on Wednesday as part of his ongoing congressional investigation into unsubstantiated claims of the Biden family's "shady business practices." He has implicated James Biden in the alleged business scheming, taking particular interest in two personal loan repayments from James Biden to his brother for $40,000 and $200,000 — transactions that occurred in 2017 and 2018 when Joe Biden was neither in office nor a candidate. 

The "shady business" Comer purports is part of these repayments, however, mirrors similar transactions between himself and his own brother, according to The Daily Beast's Roger Sollenberger

Kentucky property records show that Comer and his brother swapped land related to their multi-million-dollar family farming business with one deal also involving $200,000 and a shell company. In that transaction, Comer funneled extra money to his brother, while other recent land swaps were quickly followed by new applications for special tax breaks, state records show. "All of this, perplexingly, related to the dealings of a family company that appears to have never existed on paper," Sollenberger writes.

Unlike with the Bidens, Sollenberger adds, Comer's decades-long history borders on being a conflict of interest between his official role and his private family business.

Though Comer and his GOP allies in the House of Representatives have attempted to cast the Biden transactions as evidence of possibly impeachable offenses, multiple news organizations — including CNN, The Wall Street Journal, FactCheck.org and the conservative-leaning Washington Examiner — have all put to bed the idea that the payments amount to more than a brother helping out a brother. Still, Comer persists. 

Earlier this year, The Daily Beast reported that Comer's inquiry into the "weaponization" of government resources ran similar to Comer's own investigation-meddling scandal. The outlet also reported that Comer's oversight hearing this year into abuse of the COVID loan program also invoked the Kentucky representative and his brother. 

"This time, the irony is even richer," Sollenberger writes.

“Even if this was a personal loan repayment, it’s still troubling that Joe Biden’s ability to be paid back by his brother depended on the success of his family’s shady financial dealings,” Comer said in a press release last month.

Comer's investigation, however, has failed to produce any evidence showing that Joe Biden's loans have any connection to family business activities, let alone to actions taken while he was in elected office. Comer, on the other hand, has held important governmental positions in agriculture oversight since 2003, while running a family farming business. Those roles overlapped in 2019, the year of land swaps, and he only pulled away from an agriculture-oversight position in 2020, one year after his family business moved away from farming.

Delaney Marsco, senior counsel for ethics at nonpartisan watchdog Campaign Legal Center, told The Daily Beast that Comer's coinciding public and private roles prompt concern over whether he may be attempting to "game a personal business advantage."

“Conflicts of interest can occur when members serve on committees overseeing industries in which they are heavily invested or in which their business interests are intertwined,” Marsco said. “Voters have a right to know that lawmakers are using their considerable power in the interest of the public, not to game a personal business advantage.”

A Comer spokesperson did not return The Daily Beast's request for comment. 

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In 2018, Comer — a member of the House Agriculture Committee since his election to Congress in 2016 — was selected to negotiate the Farm Bill, a position an office press release from that time characterized as “an important role in shaping America’s agriculture and nutrition policy" with Comer calling the bill “the most impactful legislation signed into law this year.”

Prior to that, Comer served as Kentucky's Agriculture Commissioner after having sat on the state legislature's agriculture committee for eight years. Throughout that time, Comer, his brother and his father ran a farming business with Comer valuing his portion of the company between $1 million and $5 million by the time he ascended to Congress.

That company, "Comer Land & Cattle," however, doesn't appear to exist on paper. Sollenberger reports that there is no record of an entity by that name in business filings with the Commonwealth of Kentucky or any other jurisdiction. The Daily Beast's statewide search for business officers also only associates Comer with three defunct entities and the still-active Tompkinsville-Monroe County Chamber of Commerce, where he was a founding member but has since been removed. 

Comer appeared to have changed the family business' focus from farming land to leasing it, a move he boasted in a podcast interview last month as the way he "accumulated wealth." The change in the company direction in 2019, following his father's death that year, came just ahead of Comer's departure from the House Agriculture Committee a year later with his official website no longer listing the committee by August. 

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The land swaps between Comer and his brother, Chad Comer, occurred months after they lost their father, who died without a will, according to Monroe County deed records. His two sons were then left to divvy up the land inheritance.

In an April 2019 land swap, James Comer gifted his brother, through a $1 transaction, his share of two inherited tracts in Clay County, Tennessee, with a share value amounting to $175,000, the deed of sale shows. The value of James Comer's share is the same as the full value of the property in 1994 when the brothers and their father first bought it for $175,000, according to the deed.

In September, Chad Comer applied for a "Greenbelt Assessment," on that property, Clay County records show. That special agricultural tax break assesses property taxes at its "use value" instead of fair market value provided the land generates a certain annual income. 

The same day James Comer gave him that land, Chad Comer gave him an apparently more valuable piece of property in Tennessee, the exact value of which James Comer whited out on the deed, writing "exempt" in its place. Macon County records show that their father had originally purchased that land for $203,000 in 2015, meaning that while Comer appears to have netted a value of $30,000 in the land exchange, he did not make that public record.

The amount of money involved in these transactions is nowhere near the millions, but they're comparable to the Biden loans, the largest of which amounts to less than the 2015 value of Comer's "exempt" purchase, Sollenberger wrote.

Democrats had a field day with the revelation after Comer repeatedly hyped Biden's loan.

"Can't make this up," tweeted Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va.

Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., shared Moskowitz's video.

"James Comer has been asked to provide documents of his questionable transaction with his brother," he wrote. "Will he comply?"

By Tatyana Tandanpolie

Tatyana Tandanpolie is a staff writer at Salon. Born and raised in central Ohio, she moved to New York City in 2018 to pursue degrees in Journalism and Africana Studies at New York University. She is currently based in her home state and has previously written for local Columbus publications, including Columbus Monthly, CityScene Magazine and The Columbus Dispatch.

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