PRESS RELEASE: DFI Sues Biden Administration for Records Regarding Weakened Oversight of University Financial Disclosure Laws
Requests also seek administration records on foreign money flowing to universities, Education Department’s cozy relationship with higher ed lobbyists
WASHINGTON—The Defense of Freedom Institute for Policy Studies (DFI) filed a lawsuit today against the Biden administration for refusing to turn over records regarding its weakened oversight of a federal transparency law that requires colleges and universities to disclose gifts and contracts from foreign sources.
The litigation seeks to force the Biden administration to turn over documents requested by DFI through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests filed with the administration on February 7, 2022, and February 27, 2023. Those requests probe the U.S. Department of Education’s refusal to enforce Section 117 of the Higher Education Act, which requires schools to disclose certain foreign gifts and contracts, including funds received from sources such as the Chinese Communist Party and its proxies.
To date, not a single record has been produced.
“The Biden administration thinks it’s above scrutiny,” said DFI President and Co-Founder Bob Eitel. “The public has a legal right to know who’s influencing the administration on higher education issues that, frankly, have national security implications. DFI has demanded answers for nearly 18 months to no avail. This lawsuit is a critical next step for DFI’s oversight work, which seeks to shine a light on the role played by foreign interests and self-interested lobbyists in the administration’s education policy-making.”
Higher education trade groups, such as the American Council on Education (ACE), have worked with the Biden Education Department to bury Section 117 enforcement efforts and to end ongoing civil investigations started by the previous administration. Changes in the Biden administration’s enforcement of Section 117 came on the heels of a 400% increase in foreign gifts to the University of Pennsylvania after it announced it would establish the Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in 2017.
To access DFI’s filing, click here.
Links to the FOIA requests included in the litigation can be found below:
- FOIA Request: Records Related to Section 117 Enforcement and the University of Pennsylvania’s Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement (February 7, 2022, sent to Education Department)
- FOIA Request: Records Related to Section 117 Enforcement and the University of Pennsylvania’s Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement (February 7, 2022, sent to Office of Management and Budget)
- FOIA Request: Records of the U.S. Department of Education’s Communications with Higher Education Industry Lobbyists and Investigated Universities (February 27, 2023, sent to Education Department)
DFI’s mission includes promoting government transparency and accountability. To learn more visit www.dfipolicy.org.
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