Biden's Pick for Ambassador to Germany Pushes Quid Pro Quo to New Level | Opinion

President Joe Biden recently nominated Amy Gutmann to be ambassador to Germany. The list of shockingly obvious red flags surrounding this pick is long.

As University of Pennsylvania president, Amy Gutmann makes about $4 million a year in compensation, which is unacceptable for a university accepting federal funds. Affordable college tuition is a problem that Democrats promised to fix. Instead, the president nominated the most highly paid president of any Ivy League school in America to be ambassador to Germany. Overpaying administrators and a few faculty inflates academic compensation all over the country, driving the cost of college to astronomical levels. Democrats talk about making college affordable, and the possibility of canceling student debt, but people like Amy Gutmann are doing everything they can to drive the cost of higher education sky high.

Amy Gutmann hired then candidate Joe Biden as a "professor" at Penn for $911,000 even though he did not teach any classes. The time frame for this appointment was between 2017 and 2019, just before and during his 2020 presidential campaign. If the $911,000 in services were not provided to Penn by Biden we have a very serious problem under federal election law because Penn is a nonprofit that cannot donate money to candidates or to their campaigns.

On the same day the Gutmann nomination for ambassador to Germany was announced, the prospective nomination of David Cohen for ambassador to Canada was reported. Cohen is the top lobbyist for Comcast and also former chair of Penn's Board of Trustees. He has raised millions of dollars for candidates to advance Comcast's legislative agenda. Cohen has also influenced Comcast and its founders to donate millions of dollars to Penn, which helped pay for Amy Gutmann's $4 million university salary and also might have helped cover the $911,000 to then candidate Joe Biden for his services.

Where does Comcast get its money? It gets it from every American family that pays an exorbitant cable bill because Comcast not only has extraordinary market power but enough influence in Congress, the White House and in state legislatures to keep it that way.

Putting all of this together we have a "pay to play" situation that is obvious to anyone with an unbiased perspective. Such corruption infects both of our major political parties.

These two ambassadorial nominations show a completely tone deaf attitude toward middle class Americans who struggle to pay their cable bill and can only dream of sending their kids to college.

President of University of Pennsylvania, Amy Gutmann
President of the University of Pennsylvania, Amy Gutmann, speaks during the 250th Celebration Gala For The Raymond And Ruth Perelman School Of Medicine at Philadelphia Museum of Art on May 16, 2015. Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images

That's bad enough, even before the Chinese and the Saudis get into the picture.

It was recently discovered that Amy Gutmann raised millions in secret money from China and Saudi Arabia for Penn. It's not even clear yet how much more undisclosed money was donated by both countries to the university. Such foreign donations, most of them secret, are a huge national security risk for America, as we found out after 9/11 when Harvard University was exposed for taking money from the bin Laden family during the Clinton administration.

How can we have a U.S. ambassador to Germany who raised secret money from Saudi Arabia and China while paying candidate Joe Biden over $900,000 as a university professor who never taught classes?

What would be the response on Capitol Hill if Presidents Donald Trump, Barack Obama or George W. Bush nominated Amy Gutmann under similar circumstances? The credibility of our foreign policy, and our national security in the face of growing foreign influence of American universities, now rest with the United States Senate. The right answer to the nominations of Gutmann—and Cohen for that matter—is no.

Richard W. Painter is a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School and was the chief White House ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush. He is the author of Taxation Only With Representation: The Conservative Conscience and Campaign Finance Reform (2016) and (with Peter Golenbock) of American Nero: The History of the Destruction of the Rule of Law in America, and Why Trump Is the Worst Offender.

John Pudner is president of Take Back Action Fund.

The views expressed in this article are the writers' own.