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UH OH: Biden Center at UPenn Caught in New Chinese Funding Scandal

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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.”

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“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.”

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“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.

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Will Josh Hawley be the Next Champion for an America First Foreign Policy?

America First May Have its Next Leader to End Wars Abroad

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Does America First have a new non-interventionist champion?

Missouri Senator Josh Hawley has been viewed by many as one of the figures who could potentially lead a Trumpist movement after Trump, should Joe Biden end up being installed as president on January 2021.

Hawley has made a name for himself as a champion of Middle America and questioning the neoliberal orthodoxy on immigration and trade. Lately, Hawley has made a pivot towards  questioning the interventionist conventional wisdom on foreign policy. 

In early October of this year, the Missouri Senator called for the American government to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. Hawley tweeted, “Almost 20 years now in Afghanistan. Long past time to draw this war to an end.”

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Hawley’s foreign policy has been a work progress over the past two years. During a 2019 speech Hawley gave at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), he questioned the nation-building policy prescriptions of previous administrations, demonstrating some degree of skepticism towards non-stop interventionism abroad on the part of the Senator.

That said, it remains to be seen if Hawley’s legislative record will fully match his rhetoric.

Hawley is a staunch China hawk, who fears the rise of China and is a strong voice against China’s expansionist efforts. Hawley’s track record shows that his foreign policy views are rough around the edges. Daniel Larison of The American Conservative is not as optimistic about Hawley judging by his votes on the Yemeni Civil War. Larison cited several of Hawley’s votes that may be cause for concern:

Sen. Hawley voted against the Senate’s resolution of disapproval that opposed the president’s effort to circumvent Congress with a bogus “emergency” to expedite arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. More important, he voted with the president and most Senate Republicans against the antiwar Yemen resolution that would have cut off all U.S. support to the Saudi coalition.”

Nevertheless, Hawley’s comments on Afghanistan are a good sign that Hawley is catching on to the fact that Americans are tired of foreign wars. Politicians can change their views and behaviors. Hawley is likely recognizing that the America First movement is exhausted by the endless wars and wants candidates and elected officials who offer withdrawal plans. 

After looking at the list of people who have been tapped to join the Biden administration, Hawley tweeted, “What a group of corporatists and war enthusiasts – and #BigTech sellouts.”

Journalist Glenn Greenwald, a fierce interventionist skeptic, maintained cautious optimism about Hawley. In a tweet, he commented, “All kinds of reasons to be skeptical of the authenticity here, but — purely as a matter of rhetoric — just imagine any national Republican speaking this way about a Dem administration even 10 years ago. The framework of politics is radically shifting.”

The jury is still out on Hawley. Regardless of flaws in his voting record, America First advocates should continue to push him and other America First leaning Republicans in the right direction. We should never forget that politicians are still receptive to political pressure and the grassroots holds the keys to political change. 

Young senators like Hawley are the future of American politics and it makes sense for foreign policy restrainers to lobby them and push them in a direction that favors non-interventionism.

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