WASHINGTON – Washington has a long and well-deserved reputation for double-dealing, and now according to best-selling author Peter Schweizer, the name of the game is changing.
"Politicians have gotten very clever about corruption," Schweizer told CBN News.
"It's used to be they'd take money in a shoebox. They'd get a direct payoff," he said. "Now what they're doing is basically setting up their family members or close friends."
Schweizer lays out his case in his new book, Secret Empires, with well-researched examples featuring some big-name politicians.
"Vice president of the United States, Joe Biden, in December of 2013 is flying to Bejing, China, on Air Force II on official business," he said. "On the plane is his son, Hunter Biden. Ten days after that trip, Hunter Biden walks away with a $1.5 billion private equity deal from the Chinese government."
As an equity firm, that deal wouldn't require public disclosure. Schweizer says it was found by investigating world capital markets. Aides to the Bidens dispute the accusation.
The book also includes revelations involving former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State John Kerry, senior Trump advisor Jared Kushner, former Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and left-wing billionaire George Soros – among others.
And it's not just Democrats feeling the heat.
"Corruption is a human problem," Schweizer noted. "It's a condition of the human heart. It's not an issue just related to Democrats and Republicans."
Schweizer shows that by including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
"So Elaine Chao's father and sister run a company that has its ships built by the Chinese government," he said.
"The construction of those ships are financed by the Chinese government," Schweizer explained. "The crews are Chinese and many of the shipping contracts are with Chinese government entities. So they've made a lot of money with the help of the Chinese government."
Schweizer says some of that money came to McConnell in the form of a gift from his father-in-law, running somewhere between $5 million and $25 million.
That, too, was never publicly disclosed.
"Here's the problem with all of this," Schweizer said. "Sen. Mitch McConnell knows that if he were to take a harsh position on Beijing as it relates to human rights or trade policy or currency manipulation, they could shut down the family business tomorrow."
He says McConnell's record in Congress is telling.
"If you look at the policy positions of Sen. McConnell during the time that this commercial relationship blossomed, he's become progressively softer in his policy views toward China. It's extremely troubling," Schweizer told CBN News.
McConnell's office calls these wild accusations not backed by credible sourcing.
Schweizer sees this concept as "corruption by proxy."
Essentially, lawmakers figure out how to legally maneuver around the rules.
Laws covering the federal and legislative branches of government lay out rigid regulations about the gifts politicians and their spouses can accept.
Schweizer maintains those rules include potential loopholes that don't cover children and other family members.
One of Schweizer's big takeaways in the book is that "corruption is upstream from policy."
"So what do I mean? If you've ever gone backpacking or camping and you want to drink out of a stream, you check upstream to make sure there's nothing toxic or poisonous that's being dumped in the stream above because it's going to poison the water you're drinking," he explained.
"Same thing in Washington, DC," he said. "Corruption is upstream from policy. These corrupt deals are affecting the policies that we in this country have to live under."
He says the rules of the game need to change, noting, "It's not a victimless crime."
And at the end of the day, he says, the American people deserve to know.