Penn's Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement is facing a complaint, filed with the U.S. Department of Education, alleging the University has millions of dollars in undisclosed funds from China.
The National Legal and Policy Center, a 501(c)(3) non-profit group that monitors ethics in "public life," announced its complaint with the Department of Education on May 21. The NPLC is demanding a full investigation into the disclosure of the source of “over $70 million from China, of which $22 million were listed as “Anonymous’” according to the organization’s online announcement.
University spokesperson Stephen MacCarthy denied the validity of the complaint, however, calling the allegations “completely untrue.”
According to The Higher Education Act, universities are required to report to the federal government any donation with a foreign source exceeding $250,000. The complaint against Penn's Biden Center asks for referral to the Department of Justice to file an enforcement action seeking the University's compliance to this request.
“NLPC calls upon the University and the Biden Center to release copies of all the gifts and contracts over the last two years and open the books of the Biden Center,” NLPC’s counsel Paul Kamenar said. “The anonymous gift of $14.5 million from China two years ago after the Biden Center opened is particularly suspect. What are they hiding?"
The complaint comes months after the United States Department of Education launched investigations against Harvard and Yale for failing to report foreign donations. Harvard University's Chairman of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology Charles Lieber was then arrested for lying to the U.S. Department of Defense regarding his involvement in a Chinese government program that aimed to recruit foreign researchers.
“We have never solicited any gifts for the Penn Biden Center. Since its inception in 2017, there have been three unsolicited gifts, from two donors, which combined [to a total of] $1,100. Neither of the donors [was] from China,” MacCarthy wrote in a statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian.
Despite MacCarthy’s statement, officials at the NLPC continue to put pressure on the University to make the records of these foreign donations public.
“MacCarthy was very careful to say Penn "never solicited any gifts" to Penn Biden Center," Kamenar said. "It doesn't take a Sherlock Holmes to conclude that foreign funds are being directed to the Biden Center even if not solicited or earmarked for the Center.”
Penn for Biden declined to comment regarding the allegations. The Biden presidential campaign's press contact did not respond to requests for comment.
“This is a matter of transparency,” Kamenar said. “If the school doesn’t have anything to hide, why not disclose all of the donations, and contracts and gifts and let the students and the public, see any conditions or strings attached to the use of that money?”