UH OH: Biden Center at UPenn Caught in New Chinese Funding Scandal
On May 21, 2020, the National Legal and Policy Center filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education blaming the University of Pennsylvania for skirting federal laws which require schools to disclose foreign donations above $250,000.
According to the complaint, University of Pennsylvania was the recipient of over $67 million from sources based in China since 2013. Ever since the school opened the Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in 2017 (which is located in Washington D.C.), the school received over $22 million from sources based in China that are listed as “Anonymous.”
On May 27,2020, University of Pennsylvania spokesman Stephen MacCarthy declared that the NLPC allegation was “completely untrue.”
“We have never solicited any gifts for the Penn Biden Center,” MacCarthy told The College Fix in an e-mail. “Since its inception in 2017 there have been three unsolicited gifts (from two donors) which combined total $1,100. Neither of the donors were from China.”
“It is total nonsense,” he said to The Fix.
According to the complaint, the anonymous China contributions continued flowing in after former Vice President Joe Biden announced his presidential candidacy. Around the time of the center’s inauguration, Biden was Penn’s Benjamin Franklin Presidential Practice Professor.
“It is apparent that the Biden Center is beholden to China for its operations,” remarked Peter Flaherty, Chair of NLPC, in a statement. “This has an insidious effect on shaping the programs it produces.”
This complaint comes during a time when the Education Department is investigating Harvard and Yale for their failure to report hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign gifts and contracts. The department claims that once it started to urge schools in July 2019 to begin disclosing the foreign funds they’re receiving, universities have reported $6.5 billion in foreign money.
This new complaint alleges that Penn is not fully disclosing its foreign funding. According to the NLPC, Chinese donations to the Biden Center since 2017 have consisted of the following:
2017: Total: $7,734,790 – Anonymous: $500,000
2018: Total: $27,104,246 – Anonymous: $15,800,000
2019: Total: $26,947,074 – Anonymous: $6,004,975
The complaint argues that these contributions have affected the university’s and the Biden Center’s behavior. For example, while China was working to cover up information about the effect of the Wuhan virus on its country, Penn Global sponsored the 2020 Penn China Research Symposium on January 31, 2020, which featured opening remarks by Ambassador Huang Ping, Consul-General of the People’s Republic of China in New York. One of the panelists participating in the symposium was from the Penn Biden Center.
“Moreover, the University of Pennsylvania since 2015 has established a Penn China Research and Engagement Fund where university funds are awarded for research projects about China,” the complaint highlighted.
At a opening for the center in 2018, Biden stated, “It is just a great, great honor to be associated with what I think is one of the finest universities in the world.” She continued, “This is the most satisfying thing that I could do. The purpose of this [center] is to be a gathering place where ideas are exchanged.”
The NLPC is pursuing the full disclosure of the contributions and requesting that Penn reimburse the U.S. Treasury for “the full costs to the United States of obtaining compliance, including all associated costs of investigation and enforcement.”
The complaint can be read here.