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Education Dept. Uncovers Billions In Unreported Foreign Donations From China and Russia to US Colleges

Ramil Sitdikov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

The Department of Education told House Republicans, during a briefing and in a letter, their investigation into Institutions of Higher Education (IHE) for foreign investments and donations has so far uncovered over $6 billion of previously unreported foreign donations from known adversarial countries.

The briefing and the letter are the result of House Republicans' inquiry into U.S. colleges being investigated by the Education Department for violating Section 117 of the Higher Education Act of 1965, which prohibits an IHE from improperly reporting or failing to report foreign gifts of $250,000 or more, as part of their wider probe into the Chinese Communist Party's influence within the United States.

In the letter, which was obtained by Townhall, from the DoE's Office of the General Counsel that was sent to Congress on May 19, they wrote, "Some IHE leaders are starting to acknowledge the threat of foreign academic espionage and have been working with federal law enforcement to address gaps in reporting and transparency. However, the evidence suggests massive investments of foreign money have bred dependency and distorted the decision making, mission, and values of too many institutions."

"The Department shares Congress’ concerns regarding unreported and unregulated foreign direct investment into the U.S. higher education system, and the potential for foreign sources to use strategic investments to turn American college campuses into indoctrination platforms," they added.

While the investigations into the IHEs are still ongoing, the DoE wrote they have been met with some resistance (emphasis mine):

"In this case, the Department has a strong interest in protecting the confidentiality and integrity of its investigations. Inappropriate disclosure of confidential information could lead to separation of powers concerns and will certainly impair the factfinding and enforcement work Congress has authorized us to do.

"Furthermore, the Department has yet to receive critical information needed to confirm the accuracy of previously submitted Section 117 reports. Certain institutions have yet to produce requested emails, metadata, and other information regarding business relationships with, and faculty funding from, Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Russian foreign sources. The Department is negotiating for this important information and hopes to have access to all relevant records (and witness interviews, if appropriate) in the near term. 

"At the same time, the Department is evaluating its available statutory and regulatory options if negotiations and compromise fail. Finally, we are consulting with the U.S. Department of Justice and others to explore all potential pathways for full and fair disclosure of IHE foreign funding under Section 117."

The reason for the delay in the documents from the universities is because their counsel has contacted the DoE and "claimed Freedom of Information Act exemptions and legal privileges to block record production to Congress. Although we are concerned there may be evidence suggesting certain institutions could be 'overmarking' documents with business information confidentiality and privilege claims, the Department believes it may be constrained to withhold certain records from you that might otherwise be appropriately produced in a constitutionally mandated accommodation."

The DoE told House committee staffers they have found evidence some colleges base their decisions on the foreign donations they receive, according to two House GOP sources on the briefing call.

"This is not a partisan problem. This is an American problem," a GOP source with knowledge of the matter told Townhall.

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