Organization Trends

China and the Penn Biden Center: Paying Professor Biden


China and the Penn Biden Center (full series)
Penn Biden Center | Hunter’s Role
China Money | Paying Professor Biden


Paying Professor Biden

The university announced he would be the Benjamin Franklin Presidential Practice Professor and would hold joint appointments in the Annenberg School for Communication and the School of Arts and Sciences, with a secondary affiliation in the Wharton School.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported the university paid Biden $371,159 in 2017 and $540,484 in 2018 and early 2019 for a professorship that “involved no regular classes and around a dozen public appearances on campus, mostly in big, ticketed events.” The average salary for a UPenn professor, generally handling a full load of classes, was $217,411 in the 2017–18 academic year, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The engagements included three question-and-answer interview-style events with UPenn President Gutmann, a series of panel discussions on topics such as immigration and cancer, a talk about his book Promise Me, Dad, a lecture to a Wharton Business School class, and public conversations with former Mexican President Felipe Calderon and with former United Kingdom Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, according to a tally by the Daily Pennsylvanian, the campus newspaper.

But it’s not just Biden’s light workload that has prompted questions, but that of other Penn Biden Center personnel as well.

At the opening of the Washington office for the Penn Biden Center in February 2018, Biden talked about how Gutmann suggested he join the university as a professor. But he said her pitch “became even more intriguing” after the 2016 presidential election when she expanded the offer to include funding for staff, which the future president said would mean he could “bring along with me some serious, serious people.”

The America First Legal Foundation is seeking more information about what those “serious, serious people” were doing with salaries and resources provided by the university. The watchdog group filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service alleging the Penn Biden Center paid the president and others for no-show jobs, or to do nothing.

AFL, run by former Trump White House official Stephen Miller, submitted an IRS Form 13900 outlining the complaints.

“As fiscal sponsor, the University of Pennsylvania (‘Penn’) was obligated to conduct appropriate oversight of the Penn Biden Center’s activities,” the complaint says. “This obligation included … preventing prohibited private benefits (e.g. ‘no show’ jobs), prohibited campaign intervention activities, unlawful political lobbying, and illegal influence peddling.”

“The evidence is that then-former Vice President Biden was paid nearly a million dollars for appearing on campus six times. Other Obama administration officials, including the current Secretary of State, were also paid by the Penn Biden Center without providing equivalent services for Penn’s students,” the IRS complaint says.

The complaint continues, “Penn’s President, Amy Gutmann, allegedly created the Penn Biden Center to benefit Vice President Biden, and, according to emails on Hunter Biden’s laptop, apparently to benefit his family members as well. In exchange, she was nominated to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Germany. … Finally, the evidence is that the creation of the Penn Biden Center immediately led to a massive influx of donations from foreign sources to Penn, including but not limited to tens of millions of dollars from alleged instrumentalities of the Chinese Communist Party. The quid pro quo for these donations has not been disclosed.”

Administration in Waiting

If the IRS follows up on the complaint and investigates the center as well for no-show jobs, it could potentially have far-reaching impact throughout the Biden administration.

The House Oversight Committee contends the Penn Biden Center “appears to have acted as a foreign-sponsored source of income for much of a Biden administration in-waiting.” The 10 associates that worked for the center that went on to gain senior level administration roles earned between $79,000 and $208,000 at the center.

The committee requested visitor logs and donor information from the university and the Penn Biden Center.

Antony Blinken was the managing director of the Penn Biden Center before Biden tapped him to be secretary of state. White House adviser Steve Ricchetti, also briefly served as managing director of the center.

Michael Carpenter is a former managing director of the Penn Biden Center. After taking office, Biden named Carpenter, a former Obama administration Defense Department official, as ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

As president of the University of Pennsylvania, Gutmann recruited and hired Biden to work at the university, where he made 12 engagements while collecting $900,000. After Biden was elected president, he appointed Gutmann to be ambassador to Germany.   

David Cohen was the chairman of the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania. After taking office, Biden named him as ambassador to Canada.

Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl also previously worked at the Penn Biden Center. Juan Sebastian Gonzalez was a senior fellow at the Penn Biden Center from April 2018 to September 2020. After taking office, Biden hired him as is special assistant to the president and the national security director for the Western Hemisphere at the White House.

Flying Under the Radar

The Penn Biden Center, despite obvious connections to power, has managed to fly below the radar. While it was the classified documents that drew attention to an organization many Americans didn’t even know existed before, a real review of this nonprofit is long overdue—whether it comes from Congress, the special counsel, or both.


This article was first published in the March/April 2023 issue of Capital Research magazine.

Fred Lucas

Fred Lucas is the author of Abuse of Power: Inside the Three-Year Campaign to Impeach Donald Trump (Bombardier Books, 2020). He is a journalist who reports for the Daily Signal,…
+ More by Fred Lucas

Support Capital Research Center's award-winning journalism

Donate today to assist in promoting the principles of individual liberty in America.

Read Next