After months of anticipation, former Alaska Governor and Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin will come to Turlock this week to speak at a California State University, Stanislaus fundraiser.
The $500 a plate 50th Anniversary Gala, organized by the nonprofit CSU Stanislaus Foundation, has been sold out for months. The Foundation expects to raise approximately $200,000 through the event, which will fund additional course offerings, university programs and student scholarships.
Palin’s impending keynote has garnered its share of controversy, however, with professors, state senators, and governmental transparency non-profits fighting a legal battle to force the disclosure of documents related to Palin’s upcoming visit, including her speaking fee. In the past, Palin has commanded as much as $100,000 for speaking engagements.
CSU Stanislaus responded to a Public Records Act request in May by disclosing 899 documents, primarily responses to media inquiries. The disclosure did not include any details of Palin’s contract, which CSU Stanislaus contends is the sole possession of the foundation.
While the university is subject to Public Records Act requests, the foundation, as a nonprofit, is not subject to the act.
The only details of Palin’s contract came when two CSU Stanislaus students Alicia Lewis, 26, and Ashli Briggs, 23, found pages four through nine of an early draft of the contract in a CSU Stanislaus Dumpster, mixed with shredded finance documents dated March 28.
The pages found mandate the foundation provides “Round-trip, first class commercial air travel for two between Anchorage, Alaska and event city,” “a one-bedroom suite and two single rooms in a deluxe hotel” including a “laptop computer and printer (fully stocked with paper) and high speed internet” and “all meals and incidentals.” The contract goes as far as to require the availability of “bendable straws.”
The discovery spurred an ongoing State Attorney General investigation into the CSU Stanislaus Foundation, aimed at discovering whether documents were illegally dumped. The investigation will also examine whether the Foundation is spending its money on CSU Stanislaus programs and student services, per its stated objective.
A completed Stanislaus County District Attorney Office review found no evidence that university staff intentionally disposed of documents that might have been subject to Public Records Act requests. The DAO review, which did not interview Briggs and Lewis, did not determine whether a crime was committed or who may have committed it.
The war over private and public information at the CSU Stanislaus Foundation was even discussed at the State Capitol on Tuesday, as the State Assembly Higher Education Committee approved Senate Bill 330. The measure would clarify that campus foundations and auxiliaries are subject to the Public Records Act.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar bill last year, but the new bill looks to address his concerns by exempting the disclosure of volunteers and donors who whish to remain anonymous, so long as those individuals do not receive something of a value greater than $500 in exchange for their donation or service. The bill also exempts information gathered in the process of soliciting donations.
The bill awaits a vote by the full State Assembly before it will reach the Governor’s desk.
CSU Stanislaus President and Foundation Chair Hamid Shirvani has stated that Palin’s speaking fee will be released at some date following Friday’s gala.
The Turlock Journal will be in attendance at the Gala dinner, following a CSU Stanislaus announcement last Friday that credentialed media would be allowed to attend. Full coverage of Palin’s speech and the event will be in Saturday’s issue of the Journal.
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