The House Foreign Affairs Committee is pressing President Joe Biden's secretary of state Antony Blinken for details on the sudden surge in foreign donations to the University of Pennsylvania after the establishment of the Penn Biden Center, where Blinken served as managing director.
The inquiry, led by HFAC chairman Michael McCaul (R., Texas), could shed light on the Penn Biden Center’s funding and whether think tank officials had any involvement with the university’s solicitation of foreign donors. Foreign funding to the University of Pennsylvania tripled in the two years after the school teamed up with Biden to launch the Penn Biden Center in 2017, with most of that money—$61 million—coming from China, the Washington Free Beacon first reported in 2021.
The donations "raise questions about the center’s ties to—or benefits derived from—that funding, interactions you or others had with the donors, and whether People’s Republic of China (PRC) linked individuals ever entered the center and came within close proximity of classified U.S. intelligence information," McCaul wrote in a letter to Blinken on Tuesday.
The Penn Biden Center has been under scrutiny after federal investigators discovered that classified documents from Biden’s vice presidency were being stored at the think tank’s offices in Washington, D.C., as well as at Biden’s home in Wilmington, Del.
McCaul asked Blinken to disclose his "involvement in fundraising activities for the Center or the University of Pennsylvania (including donor outreach/engagement), and whether you had knowledge of donations to the university by any PRC persons/sources," as well as a list of all "PRC persons and/or their representatives you met with while employed at the Center."
"Were you involved in meetings/engagements with foreign persons who had made or went on to make donations to the University of Pennsylvania or the Penn Biden Center?" he asked.
McCaul also asked Blinken for information on the classified documents found at the Penn Biden Center and whether any of these records originated from the State Department.
"The Foreign Affairs Committee is concerned about the national security and foreign policy implications of classified documents found at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement," wrote McCaul.
The University of Pennsylvania told the Free Beacon this month that no foreign donations were earmarked for the Penn Biden Center, and the think tank was financed by general university funds. The Penn Biden Center employed many of Biden’s top foreign policy aides before they joined the administration, including Pentagon policy chief Colin Kahl, U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Michael Carpenter, and U.S. deputy ambassador to the United Nations Jeffrey Prescott.
Since Biden’s inauguration, the University of Pennsylvania has disclosed at least $14 million in donations from China or Hong Kong, the Free Beacon reported last week. The names of these donors have yet to be disclosed by the Department of Education, breaking the precedent of prior administrations which published foreign donor names in a public database.
The Penn Biden Center is also under scrutiny for hosting events for other UPenn groups, including a pro-China-engagement bootcamp for congressional staffers in June, where attendees were able to walk around the D.C. offices unmonitored, the Free Beacon reported on Tuesday.