Numerous top officials on the board of the University of Delaware, which is refusing to release Joe Biden's Senate records despite an earlier promise to do so, have close personal and financial ties to the former vice president, records reviewed by Fox News show -- and the chairman of the board even bought Biden's house in 1996 for $1.2 million, reportedly a "top dollar" price given its condition.
The documents suggest a significant conflict of interest as Biden faces increasing pressure to relinquish the documents that could contain information relevant to Tara Reade's sexual assault allegation against him.
Biden dropped off 1,875 boxes of “photographs, documents, videotapes, and files” and 415 gigabytes of electronic records to the University of Delaware in 2012. The university initially said it expected to make the records “available to the public two years after Biden’s last day in elected public office.” In April 2019, just hours before Biden announced his current presidential bid, the university changed its mind, and said the papers wouldn't be released until either December 31, 2019 or until two years after Biden “retires from public life,” whichever comes later.
This week, both The Atlantic and The Washington Post argued that Biden should instruct the university to turn over the records, saying they "could contain confirmation of any complaint Ms. Reade made, either through official congressional channels or to the three other employees she claims she informed not specifically of the alleged assault but more generally of harassment."
The University of Delaware’s charter states that the Board of Trustees has “entire control and management of the affairs of the university," and notes that no university bylaws "shall diminish or reduce the Board’s plenary authority over all matters related to the control and management of the affairs of the University."
The current chairman of the board at the University of Delaware, John Cochran, is a longtime Biden donor and former CEO of MBNA.
In a January 1998 article entitled "The Senator from MBNA," columnist Byron York recounted how Cochran, then MBNA's vice chairman, paid "top dollar" for Biden's home in February 1996, just prior to his Senate re-election bid, and that "MBNA gave Cochran a lot of money—$330,000—to help with 'expenses' related to the move."
FILE - In this Sept. 9, 2012 file photo, then-Vice President Joe Biden talks to customers, including a woman who pulled up her chair in front of the bench Biden was sitting on, during a stop at Cruisers Diner in Seaman, Ohio. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
The $1.2M sale was a "pretty darned good deal for Biden," York wrote, noting that "Cochran simply paid Biden’s full asking price" even though the "house needed quite a bit of work; contractors and their trucks descended on the house for months after the purchase."
York noted that nearby houses were selling below their appraised value at the time. “It is customary for appraisers to evaluate homes in relation to similar properties in the area, or ‘comparables,''' York wrote. "In the case of Biden’s house, the appraiser compared the home to another large old house about a quarter of a mile away. That house—which was in similar condition—was judged to be worth $1,013,000. It sold in August 1995 for $800,000 (it should be noted that the house did not have a pool, which Biden’s does; on the other hand the house had central air conditioning, which Biden’s did not, and it was on a larger lot)."
The appraiser also "looked at two other newer houses in the area," York continued. "One was appraised at $1,230,000 and sold for $1,007,500. The other was appraised at $1,163,000 and sold for an even $1 million. In all three cases, the homes sold for a good deal less than their appraised value."
Asked how Cochran and Biden found each other for the sale, an MBNA spokesperson told York: "That’s a very personal question." Federal election records also showed top MBNA executives apparently made a "concerted" effort to donate to Biden's campaign, York reported.
Shortly after the house sale, Biden's son Hunter was hired on at MBNA. Rachel Mullen, a former senior personal banking officer at MBNA from 1994-2001 who later went into Republican politics, tweeted that managers referred to the younger Biden as "Senator MBNA" after he was hired into a lucrative management-prep track right after he graduated from Yale Law School.
An MBNA source who previously worked at the company told Fox News that other employees heard Biden boasting that his salary was unusually high, even for the management-prep track -- which was widely seen in the company as a way to groom and pamper well-connected executive candidates with powerful family members.
John Cochran, chairman of the Board of Trustees, on the left in a 2018 photo. (Kathy F. Atkinson / University of Delaware)
The source said Biden's "Senator MBNA" nickname was not politically motivated, but rather reflected a widely held belief among managers -- who did not work directly with Biden -- that he essentially was engaged in lobbying.
As Hunter cashed the checks, Biden was pushing successfully on the Senate floor for legislation that would make it harder for consumers to file for bankruptcy protection -- benefiting companies like MBNA. In a contemporaneous interview, Tom Brokaw asked the elder Biden whether it was "inappropriate" for the then-senator to have his son "collecting money from this big credit card company while you were on the [Senate] floor protecting its interests."
In 2018, Cochran, who has supported each of Biden's political campaigns, joined Biden in attending the naming ceremony of the Biden School of Public Policy at the University of Delaware.
Further, at least seven other members of the University of Delaware's board of trustees have donated to Biden's political campaigns -- including a former Biden senior counsel from the Senate, as well as the state's governor and other senior officials.
Terri Kelly, the former president and CEO Of W.L. Gore & Associates, has served on the university's board of trustees since 2014 -- and donated the maximum legal amount to Biden in 2019.
Carol Ammon, who has been on the board since 2013, has given more than $10,000 to Biden's campaign and affiliated PACs, federal election records show.
Then-Vice President Joe Biden leans in to say something to Maggie Coons, next to her father Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., after Biden administered the Senate oath to Coons during a ceremonial re-enactment swearing-in ceremony, Jan. 6, 2015, in the Old Senate Chamber of Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
John Paradee, a lawyer, joined the board in 2018. He has also donated heavily to Biden.
John Carney, the state's governor and another board member, has also donated more than $1,000 to Biden.
Claire DeMatteis served as counsel to Biden. Since 2001, she has given over $16,000 to Democratic PACs, including Biden's, called Unite our States.
Chai Gadde, a CEO, has donated thousands to Biden.
William Lafferty, a partner at a Delaware law firm who serves on the board as well, has also given more than $2,500 to Biden's campaign.
Nov. 1, 2014: Then-Vice President Joe Biden with actress Eva Longoria in Las Vegas.
Despite some outlets calling for the release of the records held by these board members, Senate Democrats and media outlets have been mostly silent on Reade's claims, even though they called for an immediate FBI investigation into claims against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. Reade, however, has presented substantially more corroborating evidence than Kavanaugh's accuser, Christine Blasey Ford.
Biden himself hasn't addressed the allegation against him, and no one in the media has asked him about it during interviews. Representatives for Biden's campaign have denied the allegations, even as some Democrats have urged Biden to address the matter himself.
Earlier Wednesday, The New York Times rebuked the Biden campaign, telling Fox News that the campaign was apparently circulating talking points to top Democrats that "inaccurately" described the paper's reporting. The talking points falsely claimed that the Times had disproven Reade's accusations, when it actually found some corroboration.
Business Insider, The Intercept, and Newsbusters have separately found additional contemporaneous corroboration for Reade's claims, including footage showing Reade's mother calling into "Larry King Live" to discuss an incident involving her daughter and a prominent senator.
The Times had earlier stealth-edited its coverage of the Biden accusations at the request of the Biden campaign. The paper specifically removed a section of its reporting referring to numerous other episodes in which Biden was accused of inappropriate touching -- including one instance in which he was caught on camera touching young girls and making them visibly uncomfortable.
"I think that the [Biden] campaign thought that the phrasing was awkward and made it look like there were other instances in which he had been accused of sexual misconduct," The Times' executive editor, Dean Baquet, admitted the day after the article was published.
According to a copy of the Times' article saved by the Internet archive Wayback Machine, the Times originally reported: "No other allegation about sexual assault surfaced in the course of reporting, nor did any former Biden staff members corroborate any details of Ms. Reade’s allegation. The Times found no pattern of sexual misconduct by Mr. Biden, beyond the hugs, kisses and touching that women previously said made them uncomfortable."
That paragraph now reads: "No other allegation about sexual assault surfaced in the course of reporting, nor did any former Biden staff members corroborate any details of Ms. Reade’s allegation. The Times found no pattern of sexual misconduct by Mr. Biden."
Baquet also struggled to explain why his paper had waited weeks to even report on Reade's allegations. Baquet implied that Kavanaugh was urgently in the public spotlight, while Biden -- who was locking up the Democratic presidential nomination as Reade's claim surfaced -- somehow was not in the public eye.
"Kavanaugh was already in a public forum in a large way," Baquet said. "Kavanaugh was in a very different situation. It was a live, ongoing story that had become the biggest political story in the country. It was just a different news judgment moment."
Biden has previously said he would change his interactions with women going forward, but stopped short of apologizing for his conduct.
Gregg Re is a lawyer and editor based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @gregg_re or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.