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The Penn Biden Center, located in Washington, D.C., on March 30. Credit: Jesse Zhang

Several Republican Congress members proposed an act advocating for transparency and protection of American education from foreign influences, citing Penn Biden Center funding.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) and Rep. Michelle Steel (R-Calif.) proposed the Defending Education Transparency and Ending Rogue Regimes Engaging in Nefarious Transactions Act. This act proposes lowering the foreign gift reporting threshold for colleges and universities from $250,000 to $50,000, and down to $0 for “countries and entities of concern,” according to the bill summary

Foxx tweeted a clip of Rep. Mary Miller (R-Ill.) stating the Penn Biden Center received “more than a half a million dollars from a group with ties to the Communist Party of China" as a promotion for passing the DETERRENT Act. 

In January, after discovering classified documents at the Washington think tank, the United States House Oversight and Accountability Committee sent a letter to Penn President Liz Magill inquiring about foreign donations and visitors to the Penn Biden Center.

In January 2021, a letter from three House Republicans to then-Penn President Amy Gutmann alleged that the University received millions of dollars in undisclosed funds from China before and after the formation of the Penn Biden Center. 

“The Penn Biden Center has never solicited or received any gifts from any Chinese or other foreign entity," a University spokesperson said in a statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian. "The University has never solicited any gifts for the Center.”

"Since its [Penn Biden Center] inception in 2017, there have been three unsolicited gifts, from two donors, which combined [to a total of] $1,100. Both donors are Americans. One hundred percent of the budget for the Penn Biden Center comes from university funds,” the spokesperson wrote. 

According to the data published in accordance with Section 117 of the Higher Education Act of 1965, from Jan. 1, 2013 to June 30, 2019, of all nations, China contributed the most money to the University at $67,618,610. Penn was the third highest in receiving funding from mainland China in that time frame, with Harvard and the University of Southern California coming first and second, respectively, according to Bloomberg

The published data shows that not all money given by China had specific spending requirements, meaning that the University could choose how to use the funds.