Republican lawmakers from three House investigative committees have asked the University of Pennsylvania to disclose funding sources for its academic institute focused on diplomacy and foreign policy that’s named after President Joe Biden, amid concerns of foreign influence.
In a Jan. 28 letter to the president of the university, Amy Gutmann, the Congress members asked her to provide records of China’s funding to both the university and the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement to “help us better understand the depth and breadth of foreign influence and investment in U.S. higher education, as well as the University of Pennsylvania’s and the Biden Center’s ties to China.”
Donations from China to the university surged to over $72 million in the three years since the founding of the Biden Center was announced in 2017—compared to $21 million in a similar time frame before the center was set up. That prompted a watchdog group and lawmakers to question whether the funding increase was due to the center.
“Understanding whether the … [Biden Center] received funds from China or other adversarial nations at the behest of the Biden family or future Biden Administration officials will shed light on the depth and breadth of the potential improper influence these nations enjoy over the Biden family,” states the letter by House Committee on Oversight and Reform ranking member James Comer (R-Ky.), House Committee on the Judiciary ranking member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), and House Committee on Education and Labor ranking member Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.).
Secretary of State Antony Blinken previously served as managing director of the center before joining the Biden campaign in 2019.
The lawmakers also noted that the federal investigation into Biden’s son Hunter Biden and his “tax affairs,” reportedly includes a probe into his business dealings with China, raising “serious questions regarding conflicts of interest and the integrity of the Biden family’s ties to China,” the letter states. Last year amid the election season, a former business partner of Hunter Biden revealed to media outlets a trove of text messages, some of which demonstrated Hunter Biden’s close ties to a Chinese billionaire. Other messages suggested Joe Biden was aware of his son’s business deals. While running for president, Joe Biden denied knowledge of Hunter’s business dealings.
Ron Ozlo, a spokesperson for the university, said in an email to The Epoch Times that the Biden Center has “never solicited or received any gifts from any Chinese or other foreign entity.”
“The University has never solicited any gifts for the Center. Since its inception in 2017, there have been three unsolicited gifts (from two donors) which combined total $1,100. Both donors are Americans,” Ozlo said.
In the letter, the lawmakers expressed concern about the Chinese regime’s use of “strategic investments to turn American college campuses into indoctrination platforms for American students.”
“The CCP’s [Chinese Communist Party] actions call into question whether U.S. institutes of higher education receiving federal taxpayer dollars should be allowed to accept funds from China, the CCP, or other affiliated organizations,” the letter stated.
The lawmakers also asked the university to brief committee staff on the matter by Feb. 4.
U.S. officials and lawmakers have increasingly sounded the alarm on Chinese influence on American college campuses, including through Beijing-funded Confucius Institutes that have been criticized for spreading CCP propaganda and stifling academic freedom. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned last year that U.S. universities are becoming “hooked on Chinese Communist Party cash,” jeopardizing free speech and national security.