Biden's Cozy University Job

Roll Call($) reports that Joe Biden currently receives a ‘healthy’ stipend from Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania, for a part-time law school teaching job. Interestingly, Biden’s stipend didn’t change when he cut his teaching time in half:

Since September 1991, Biden has been an adjunct faculty member at the Widener School of Law, which has campuses in Harrisburg, Pa., and Wilmington, Del. Biden team-teaches a seminar called “Selected Topics in Constitutional Law” with professor Robert Hayman. The class meets Saturday mornings, and, according to Hayman, Biden guarantees that he will be present for at least half of the class time.

Biden used to teach the course alone, Hayman said, but in 2003, the Senator “went to our dean … and told him he just didn’t have the time to teach anymore.” The two decided that “maybe a possibility to reduce the time in the classroom was by taking on a co-teacher … so they settled on me as his co-teacher, with the understanding then that while he wouldn’t be there for the whole class, he would be there for at least half the time…”

Hayman said that he manages the administrative duties for the class and that he reads all of the student papers and proposes grades to Biden. The Senator may then suggest changes to the grades Hayman has suggested, but Hayman said that is rare.

“I haven’t had the audacity to ask when he has approved my grades, ‘Well, did you really read them?’” Hayman said…

Despite Biden’s apparent reduced workload when Hayman came on board, the Senator’s salary from Widener did not significantly drop. In 2001, he reported being paid $19,133 by the university; in 2002, his salary rose to $21,867; and in every year since, his salary has been $20,500.

Biden’s paycheck is double what Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) was paid last year for teaching a yearlong seminar at the Georgetown University Law Center.

Roll Call further reports that Biden is the only member of the Senate paid to work as an adjunct professor, and the arrangement has the prior approval of the Senate Ethics Committee.

So why is this even a story?

Because Widener University employs Oldaker, Biden, & Belair to do its lobbying in D.C. That’s the firm started by Biden’s son and his longtime campaign manager and fundraiser. (Oldaker, Biden, and Belair also represents the University of Delaware.) More from Roll Call:

Biden’s academic employer is also a supplicant before Congress. The university has employed lobbyists since 2001 to seek federal appropriations earmarks and has succeeded on several occasions. According to a White House earmark database, Widener received two earmarks in the 2005 appropriations cycle, one for just less than $1 million for a clinical psychology program and another for $99,000 for technology infrastructure upgrades at the law school’s Harrisburg campus.

In the first half of 2008, Widener has paid $40,000 to the National Group, a lobbying firm that includes William Oldaker, a longtime political ally of Biden’s. Oldaker has been active in several Biden campaigns and also represented the Senator in his 1989 appeal to the Federal Election Commission to allow him to accept Widener’s teaching job. Roll Call reported at the time that Biden asked the FEC to declare his teaching income a “stipend” instead of “honoraria,” which faced stricter limits.

The National Group is the lobbying arm of the law/lobbying firm of Oldaker, Biden & Belair, the second name belonging to Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son. Hunter Biden, a registered lobbyist, does not represent Widener and has not been listed as a National Group lobbyist since 2006.

Biden’s spokesperson says that the Senator has never submitted a request on behalf of Widener, but that doesn’t mean much. Hunter Biden and Bill Oldaker enjoy privileged access to Senators and staff because of their associations with the Senator. If they mention that Joe Biden teaches at Widener, it improves the chances of the University getting its earmarks approved. And if they can get a Biden staffer to actually make a phone call to the Appropriations Committee confirming the Senator’s support, it would have a greater effect than being listed in a letter.