By Alana Goodman | January 29, 2020
A Delaware nonprofit organization received a $166,000 federal grant about the same time it appointed then-Vice President Joe Biden’s daughter as executive director, according to government and tax records.
In September 2014, the Delaware Center for Justice was selected for a competitive two-year grant by the U.S. Department of Justice through the federal Edward Byrne Memorial grant program — which Joe Biden helped steer significant funding to as vice president and senator.
Joe Biden’s daughter, Ashley Biden, 38, had been associate director of the Delaware Center for Justice for about a year at the time. Two months after the grant selection, the nonprofit organization announced that she had been promoted to executive director.
Joe Biden was one of the top advocates for the Edward Byrne grant while in the Senate and helped steer $1.7 billion to the program as vice president. The grant, which was named in honor of a fallen New York City Police Department officer, typically supports efforts to strengthen local law enforcement. The program has also faced criticism from justice reform organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, which claimed it perpetuated “racial disparities, police corruption, over-incarceration and civil rights abuses.”
The National Legal and Policy Center, a government watchdog group, said the timing raised questions about whether Joe Biden’s position as vice president and as an advocate for the program had any influence on the selection process.
“The timing of the grant approval and his daughter’s ascent to leadership in the organization that received it makes it necessary for the agencies involved to investigate whether Biden improperly used his influence to steer this grant to his daughter,” said Tom Anderson, director of the National Legal and Policy Center’s Government Integrity Project.
Delaware was one of three jurisdictions chosen to participate in the Edward Byrne grant’s newly created “Smart Pretrial Demonstration” initiative in September 2014. The program was intended to “improve the functioning of the criminal justice system, such as activities pertaining to crime prevention, control, or reduction, or the enforcement of the criminal law.”
Ashley Biden’s nonprofit organization “was selected to locally coordinate this two year grant” in Delaware, she wrote in the group’s 2015 annual report.
“The new Initiative will test the cost savings and public safety enhancements that can be achieved by improving pretrial policies and practices,” she wrote. “Specifically, the program will evaluate the impact of moving to a pretrial system that relies on risk assessment to inform pretrial release decision-making and demonstrates how risk management strategies can improve pretrial outcomes.”
The DOJ grant was a significant portion of the Delaware Center for Justice’s revenue, according to its annual reports. The prior year, the group brought in a total of $768,305 in revenue. That increased to $1,517,854, according to the 2015 report, due to an uptick in both government funding and foundation grants.
Ashley Biden’s salary also saw a bump in comparison with the prior executive director. The previous director, Joanna Champney, was paid $71,000 in 2013 and $69,000 in 2014, according to tax records. Ashley Biden’s starting salary was $82,000, although that also corresponded with stronger revenues for the organization.
Attempts to contact Ashley Biden were not successful, and the Biden campaign did not respond to a request for comment.