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UPenn Raked in Over $1 Billion in Foreign Funding Since Opening Biden Think Tank

Hunter Biden, an unidentified man, and then-vice president Joe Biden in China in 2013 / Getty Images
May 17, 2023

The University of Pennsylvania has raked in over $1 billion in foreign funding since launching President Joe Biden's think tank in 2018, according to financial records—with money pouring in from Chinese officials, the Saudi Arabian government, pharmaceutical companies seeking U.S. assistance, and business magnates facing investigations for tax fraud and corruption.

The influx of cash increased significantly after Biden took office, spiking from $79 million in 2020 to $479 million in 2021 and $495 million in 2022, according to the Pennsylvania state records, which were obtained by the watchdog group Americans for Public Trust.

The financial details, some of which were reported by Fox News on Tuesday, reveal for the first time the names of foreign donors that have been withheld by the Biden administration. Prior to 2020, the Department of Education published online the names of overseas contributors to universities that receive federal funding.

The news could also add to concerns from watchdog groups that Biden's foreign policy think tank at University of Pennsylvania, which after it officially launched in 2018 employed several people who are now senior cabinet officials, created a conflict of interest and security issues for the president. In January, the FBI seized classified documents from Biden's vice presidency that were improperly housed at the Penn Biden Center's lavish Washington, D.C., office.

Caitlin Sutherland, the executive director of Americans for Public Trust, said the records obtained by the group raise "further questions about the scope of President Biden's ties to China."

"We now know that the University of Pennsylvania—home to Joe Biden's namesake think tank—received a massive increase in contributions from China and Hong Kong as he was ramping up his presidential campaign and has raked in millions from CCP-tied donors since he took office," Sutherland said.

Stephen MacCarthy, a spokesman for the university, previously told the Washington Free Beacon that the Penn Biden Center has "never solicited or received any gifts from any Chinese or other foreign entity" and the entire budget for the think tank "comes from university funds." He said the Penn Biden Center has only received donations from two individuals, both American, who gave a total of $1,100.

Both University of Pennsylvania and the White House have declined to provide a list of the center's donors.

Germany had the largest amount of contributions to UPenn, totaling over $850 million since 2018, according to the latest records. The second largest were from China and Hong Kong, with a combined $106 million. The United Kingdom was third, with contributions totaling $70 million.

In 2021, the university received a $200,000 gift from Rock Chen Chung-nin, a Beijing-approved member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council and adviser to the Chinese government. It also took a $197,000 gift that year from Margaret Ren, the daughter-in-law of former Chinese premier Zhao Ziyang. Catherine Leung, a former senior J.P. Morgan official in China, donated $142,000 months after she was cleared in a high-profile Hong Kong bribery case in 2021.

At least one of the donors also has links to Hunter Biden's business dealings in China, Fox News reported on Tuesday. Private equity company Cathay Fortune donated $1 million to UPenn in 2019. The group had an ownership stake in China Molybdenum, which partnered on a cobalt mining deal with Hunter Biden's investment firm Bohai Harvest RTS in 2016, according to Fox News.

Ma Jianrong, a Chinese politician, gave $500,000 to the university, while Chinese government adviser Chu Mang Yee's company contributed $14.5 million, Fox also reported.

Other donors and their companies have also come under scrutiny. Aditya Mittal gifted $400,000 to the university in 2022 as his steel mining business was facing a tax fraud investigation in Ukraine. Software mogul Robert Brockman last spring gave $1.6 million in research funding to UPenn through his Bermuda-based foundation, while he was under charges for running the largest tax evasion scheme in U.S. history. Brockman passed away last August.

UPenn raked in $1.2 million in contracts last year from the Saudi Central Bank, and over $800,000 from the Saudi General Authority of Zakat and Tax in 2021. Foreign drug companies, including Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Novartis, also inked high-dollar contracts with the university last year.