'Biden Center' at UPenn named in complaint alleging undisclosed China funds

The complaint includes allegations against the university's Biden Center, named for the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

A nonprofit watchdog has filed a complaint alleging that the University of Pennsylvania failed to accurately report foreign gifts.

A nonprofit watchdog organization has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of education regarding alleged undisclosed donations from China to the University of Pennsylvania and its Biden Center for Diplomacy and Public Engagement, an arm of the institution named for former Vice President and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. 

The National Legal and Policy Center said in a May 21 announcement that “since 2017 alone,” the year the Biden center opened, it has received “over $70 million from China, of which $22 million were listed as ‘Anonymous.’”  The complaint specifically names the Biden Center, which is part of the University of Pennsylvania. The foreign gift reporting, however, only includes a list of foreign donations, both “monetary gifts” and contracts, to UPenn and does not distinguish which may have been earmarked for the Biden Center.

The entries do acknowledge that the foreign gifts came from China. However, because the gifts from China are more than $250,000, federal law requires that the specific name of the individual donor to disclosed, not just the country of the gift’s origin. 

The complaint includes a footnote, which states that the amounts in question lack the name of a specific donor. 

[RELATED: Harvard, Yale under federal investigation for shady foreign gifts]

”Instead, they are listed as 7-digit numbers in gifts in July 2019 and August 2019 and elsewhere. NLPC does not know whether those are Anonymous gifts or whether the Department has the name of the donor that matches the number. In any event, the name of the donor is required by law to be disclosed, not just a number,” the complaint continues. 

Campus Reform identified ten instances in which donations of any amount to UPenn included only a number, whereas another 24 donations of all amounts were “anonymous.” Of the donations to UPenn that were $250,000 or greater, Campus Reform identified more than two dozen examples where the individual donor names were not listed, amounting to about $26 million in undisclosed foreign gifts from China.

NLPC’s complaint suggests that Biden’s candidacy for president may have prompted an influx of cash to the center.

”From 2013-2019, the University of Pennsylvania received more than $67 million from China sources. More significantly, after the Penn Biden Center opened here in Washington, D.C., in February 2018, the China gifts poured in all the more, and continued after Biden announced his candidacy of the presidency on April 25, 2019,” the complaint alleges.

[RELATED: Harvard’s China ties are even stronger than you thought]

NLPC chair Peter Flaherty said upon filing the complaint, “it is apparent that the Biden Center is beholden to China for its operations,” 

“These multi-million-dollar donations from China are bad enough but the flagrant reporting violations over the years are simply outrageous,” NLPC counsel Paul Kamenar added. 

The complaint comes just months after the Department of Education announced a federal investigation into two other Ivy League institutions- Harvard and Yale -for their alleged failure to disclose foreign gifts, including money from China. 

The Biden presidential campaign and the Department of Education did not respond in time for publication. 

UPenn spokesman Stephen Maccarthy told Campus Reform, “the University is in compliance with federal foreign gift disclosure requirements. As to their allegations regarding the connection of gifts to the Penn Biden Center, that is completely untrue.  In fact, it is total nonsense. 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 total $1,100. Neither of the donors were from China.”

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