Top Republicans on three House investigative committees are demanding that the University of Pennsylvania release funding records on the school’s Penn Biden Center, a policy institute launched by President Joe Biden in 2017.
In a letter sent Thursday to University of Pennsylvania president Amy Gutmann, the lawmakers also asked for records related to the recent surge in donations to the university from China as well as information on any contracts and agreements between Penn and the Chinese government.
The university has received over $72 million from China since the Penn Biden Center opened—up from $21 million in the same time frame prior—prompting questions from watchdog groups and lawmakers about whether the uptick had any relation to the center.
"Understanding whether the University of Pennsylvania’s Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement (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," said the letter from House Committee on Oversight and Reform ranking member James Comer (R., Ky.), House Committee on the Judiciary ranking member Jim Jordan (R., Ohio), and the House Committee on Education and Labor ranking member Virginia Foxx (R., N.C.).
The lawmakers also said they are concerned about China's efforts to influence U.S. academics. The Penn Biden Center, which was run by Biden’s secretary of state Antony Blinken and employed other Biden aides, has declined to disclose details about its funding.
The representatives asked Gutmann to provide the committees with "[a]ll unredacted records of gifts from, contracts or agreements with, and restricted or conditional gifts from or contracts with the Chinese government, the Communist Party of China, or any affiliated organizations, any Chinese national, or any businesses primarily located in China, for the period of January 1, 2013, to the present."
They also requested "[a]ll information, documents, and communications between and among the University of Pennsylvania, any of its current or former employees or affiliates, and any of the parties included in request 1," including communications with Biden, Blinken, and university administrators who oversee the global initiatives department that houses the Penn Biden Center.
The University of Pennsylvania has denied that there is a connection between its increase in funding from China and the Penn Biden Center.
Stephen MacCarthy, a spokesman for the University of Pennsylvania, told the Washington Free Beacon earlier this month that the Penn Biden Center "is funded entirely with University funds" and doesn't engage in fundraising.
"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," MacCarthy said.
The lack of transparency is a trend across Biden's policy-research institutes. Biden's research center at the University of Delaware also has no plans to disclose its donors.
The Republican lawmakers in their letter expressed concern about efforts by the Chinese government to influence professors and students on American campuses, an issue that has raised alarms with federal law enforcement agencies. Over the past few years, the Department of Justice has prosecuted numerous high-profile cases of American and Chinese academics involved in espionage-related activities or accused of hiding their ties to Chinese intelligence.
"For some time, we have been concerned about the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) efforts to use its strategic investments to turn American college campuses into indoctrination platforms for American students," the letter said. "The CCP’s actions calls 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 lawmakers asked the university to brief their committee staff on the matter by Feb. 4 and turn over the records by Feb. 11.