The Biden Institute at the University of Delaware is set to become a potential ethical issue for incoming President Joe Biden. The Institute doesn’t disclose the names of all of its donors and has not signaled that it would do so once Biden is in the White House, raising concerns that the Institute could be used like the Clinton Foundation was to gain influence with its founder.
The Institute was launched in 2017, just a couple years before he announced he would run for president but at a time when most speculated that he would.
“While it’s much smaller than the Clinton Foundation, which sparked ethics concerns during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of State and her presidential campaigns, the Biden Institute continues to engage in a multimillion-dollar fundraising campaign, which could attract donations from those interested in currying favor with the Biden administration,” Politico reported.
A Biden transition official insisted to the outlet that the administration would “adhere to high ethical standards and ensure any affiliations with outside groups will not result in special access or treatment.”
Yet the existing ties alone belie that statement, and some ethics experts told Politico that members of the Biden family need to cut ties with the institute completely or demand it disclose all its donors.
Richard Painter, chief ethics lawyer in President George W. Bush’s administration, told the outlet that both are needed.
“They should at the very least disclose their donors, and I think the Biden family should at the very least take their name off if they’re going to continue to raise money,” Planter said, adding that Biden’s son Hunter, who is under FBI investigation for financial issues, should step away from co-chairing the Beau Biden Foundation, even though it has pledge to disclose all its major donors.
“I just don’t think it’s worth it,” Planter told Politico. “Why compromise the presidency? Why create an issue for the right-wing media to grab onto?”
As the outlet noted, other members of Biden’s family are still tied to the various groups that bear his name. His sister, Valerie Biden Owens, is a paid consultant to the Institute and his son Beau’s widow, Hallie Biden, co-chairs the Foundation’s board.
The Biden Foundation and the Biden Cancer Initiative were closed in 2019 when Biden announced his candidacy. There is also a Penn Biden Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, which does not fundraise.
The Clinton Foundation caused numerous issues for Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state and a presidential candidate, due to its foreign donations. The FBI launched an investigation into the Foundation in 2018 for allegedly engaging in pay-to-play and other illegal activities. In 2020, the Department of Justice opened an investigation into how the FBI handled the allegations of corruption at the Clinton Foundation.
In what was seen as clear evidence the Clinton Foundation was used to gain influence, the organization lost more than $30 million after Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election.
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