• August 29, 2015

California Will Investigate Campus Foundation's Dealings Related to Palin Speech

California has begun a broad investigation into circumstances related to the controversy over a scheduled speech by Sarah Palin at California State University-Stanislaus, the attorney general's office announced late Tuesday afternoon. Hours earlier, two Cal State-Stanislaus students disclosed that they had found pages from what appears to be Ms. Palin's closely held speaking contract in a campus trash bin, and delivered the documents to the attorney general's office in Sacramento.

Stanislaus officials hired Ms. Palin, the Republican nominee for vice president in 2008, to speak at a $500-a-plate fund-raising gala in June. The speech is part of a 50th-anniversary celebration for the campus, which is in Turlock, about 100 miles east of San Francisco in California's Central Valley. But the event has drawn the ire of public-interest groups and a state senator after the university declined public-records requests to release information relating to the speech, including Ms. Palin's contract and speaking fee.

University officials have said that a clause in Ms. Palin's contract prevents them from releasing her fee. They have argued that because the event will be held by the university's nonprofit foundation, rather than by the university itself, documents related to it are exempt from California's public-records requirements.

Ms. Palin's fee at other events has been as high as $100,000.

The attorney general, Edmund G. Brown Jr., said his investigation would seek to determine whether the foundation had violated the California Public Records Act and whether it was spending its money to benefit the university. "We are taking this action to make sure that the money raised goes toward the intended educational purposes and not a dollar is wasted or misspent," Mr. Brown said in a written statement.

"This is not about Sarah Palin," the attorney general, a Democrat who is seeking his party's nomination for governor, said. "... The issues are public disclosure and financial accountability in organizations embedded in state-run universities."

That announcement came hours after the students who found the documents appeared at a news conference with State Sen. Leland Y. Yee, who has been pressing the university for information about Ms. Palin's speech.

The students said they became suspicious after seeing employees carrying garbage bags of papers out of the campus's administration building on Friday, which was supposed to be a furlough day. Acting on an anonymous tip, they said, they searched the trash bin and found thousands of university documents, some shredded, and Pages 4 through 9 of what they said was Ms. Palin's speaking contract, intact.

The portion they found did not include her fee but did specify other details, including a first-class flight from Anchorage, three hotel rooms, and bendable straws at the lectern.

Senator Yee, a Democrat and frequent critic of California university administrators, called the Cal State-Stanislaus incident "our little Watergate" and accused the university of destroying records to avoid supplying information in response to public-records requests.

"This is in fact a dark day for the CSU, particularly the Stanislaus campus," Mr. Yee said, standing in front of mounds of shredded documents. "I never thought that I would have to relive Watergate again."

In a short statement released later Tuesday, Matt Swanson, president of the foundation's board, did not respond directly to Mr. Yee's accusations but said, "It's a dark day when an entity that's sole purpose is to raise money for student services and university programs is falsely accused of wrongdoing."

Mr. Swanson did not respond to the attorney general's announcement.

Stanislaus officials did not comment on Tuesday. Susana Gajic-Bruyea, vice president for university advancement, wrote in a letter to the campus last month that private donations were paying for Ms. Palin's speech, and that her star power would be critical to making the event a financial success.

"Not a cent of state funds will be used for this event," Ms. Gajic-Bruyea wrote. "However, the proceeds from the event will go toward supporting the university."

Californians Aware, an open-government group, said on Tuesday it would sue the Cal State system this week in order to establish that documents held by university foundations are subject to state public-records laws. "We believe that under the Public Records Act, the public has a right to look over the shoulder of public officials," said Terry Francke, the group's general counsel.


1. laurencejgillis - April 14, 2010 at 05:47 am

"...'This is not about Sarah Palin,' the attorney general, a Democrat who is seeking his party's nomination for governor, said.... "

Jerry, exactly how utterly dumb do you think we are? Why don't you hold onto the last shreds of your dignity and simply sit down?

2. supertatie - April 14, 2010 at 07:41 am

What a joke! Let's see - it's a "dark day" when a foundation uses PRIVATE money to fly in a political figure to give a speech for a FUNDRAISER? Are you kidding me? And how much does Bill Clinton make per speech? How much will Obama make when he leaves office? How do those guys travel?

And what a diva! Palin wants WATER? At the podium? With - wait for it - BENDABLE straws? How dare she want WATER! Alert the media! Call for an investigation! (Oh, wait - that was already done.) It's pathetic when people who call themselves "journalists" fall all over themselves repeating this crap as if it were anything newsworthy.

The PMSNBC version of this story is even worse, as it suggests something untoward about Gov. Palin's staying at a "luxury" hotel in the same town where UC Stanislaus is for (*gasp!*) $139 a night, when San Francisco is "only" two hours away by car.

Anyone who thinks that $139 buys a "luxury" hotel anywhere in California is delusional, or lying. How much would a hotel cost in San Francisco, coupled with the costs of auto transportation to and from?

Speakers at Palin's level of celebrity get flown in on private planes all the time. Donors and prominent alumni donate the costs to the universities. The University of Illinois just had Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus here to campus two months ago. He was on a very tight schedule while here in the States. Do you think we made him sit at Willard Airport waiting hours for the next Northwest Airlines prop plane? Get real.

And spare us all the trumped up indignation about anyone "whistleblowing." This is politics, pure and simple.

3. jack_433 - April 14, 2010 at 07:41 am

1. Two students get their 15 minutes of fame.

2. This IS pure politics.

3. If the AG forces open records on a university foundation, you can forget about future anonymous donations to any state university in California. Why the heck does Moonbeam think foundations are separate legal entities from univesities in the first place?

4. jffoster - April 14, 2010 at 07:59 am

Typical disgusting littoral liberal and pseudointellectual hypocracy. How much investigation do you suppose there would be if it had been Hillary Ramrod Clinton. But she went to Wellesley.

5. 11159995 - April 14, 2010 at 08:28 am

#1 to #4: typical knee-jerk reactions from the right. #4 needs to learn how to spell ("hypocrisy") and use words correctly: "littoral" means "of, relating to, or situated or growing on or near a shore especially of the sea."

6. trinija - April 14, 2010 at 08:42 am

Wow! Which educated person or person of any intelligence would put the half-term, unable to think of any newspaper in her state, let's cash in on my "celebrity", denouncer of educated persons, Sarah Palin in the same stratosphere as a former two-term President of the United States, our present Secretary of State, or our current President? PLEASE!!!

Todd, stop living off the public, get a job and support your family as any self-respecting man does!

7. osrchron - April 14, 2010 at 08:47 am

Hillary Clinton has something to say. Sarah Palin is a fear propaganda machine in a pretty face. So what if they're nabbing this on a technicality. She's full of lies and hypocracy, but who cares I guess if she's raising funds...

8. dr_redrum - April 14, 2010 at 09:01 am

Well gee wizz! Mention Sarah Palin and everybody's blood flows to their groin.

9. crunchycon - April 14, 2010 at 09:53 am

or their knees

10. fdcapobianco - April 14, 2010 at 10:30 am

Of course this is about politics but there is a winner and its CSU Stanislaus. The school is getting precious ink and air time from the media. The exposure is bound to bring in funds for the foundations and the amount is likely to be far greater than what they had anticipated from the Palin visit.

11. jffoster - April 14, 2010 at 10:36 am

No 5. Mr. 11159995
I know what "littoral" means and unless they have moved it, California is on the West Coast of North America. Liberal hysteria over Sarah Palin tends to be found along the West, East, and to some extent, the North Coasts of the lower 48 of the United States.
And spelling is relatively trivial. But come to think of it, in this case, 'hypocrat' well describes this investigator.

12. goodeyes - April 14, 2010 at 10:53 am

Sarah Palin makes Obama smile everyday because she makes Republicans look so foolish.

13. getwell - April 14, 2010 at 11:22 am

To #12 goodeyes:

And while BO is smiling and patting himself on the back, the conservatives if this country are busy getting organized and ready. We'll see who is smiling when the voters get finished having the last word in November:)

14. getwell - April 14, 2010 at 11:24 am

Go Sarah Go!! You deserve everything "first-class!"

You have inspired "the silent majority" to take action!

15. scubagrrl88 - April 14, 2010 at 11:33 am

I do not see the big deal in coming forth and being public about her fee. This looks like a big cover-up in my book, and is just another mark on the long-line of administrative cover-ups in the CSU. If university administrators were just open and honest with the public, this would not even be a big deal. But, they are not. Hence, the investigation. Oh, and is it political? Of course it is; everything is riddled with politics, and really, it would not matter who was speaking: Sarah Palin, Hillary Clinton, or Barack Obama. The 2 students who brought the docs to the AG are the ones with integrity. Administrators need to take a closer look within themselves and do some soul-searching.

16. _perplexed_ - April 14, 2010 at 11:51 am

Contributions to the nonprofit foundation that is paying for the event are tax deductible; so all US taxpayers are subsidizing the event. None of the details that have so far emerged seem out of line with the normal extravagance associated with celebrity events either on campus or off. But as a taxpayer, I insist on an accounting. The foundation needs to come clean with the details or renounce their tax-deductible status.

17. waynesteffen - April 14, 2010 at 11:57 am

What's been lost as the P-word has gotten kicked from right to left and back again is that the university and/or foundation at one time claimed it didn't have documents on the agreement, and those very documents may be among those that turned up in the trash. Comparisons to Watergate are a stretch, but the officials involved have been creating smoke, so its natural to suspect fire.

18. tbdiscovery - April 14, 2010 at 01:36 pm

It amazes me how the Left is so intimidated and enraged by Sarah Palin. It's almost as blatantly shameless as the SPLC only investigating "hate crimes" committed by whites. If Palin is so unintelligent and not a threat to the Left, then why not let her destroy herself? It's obvious that she's loved not only because of her views and personality, but also because the Left sees something threatening in her. In the bastion of liberal academe - the same academe that provides a forum for Abu-Jamal to speak but vilifies David Duke, Geert Wilders and Ann Coulter - give her room to breathe.

19. princeton67 - April 14, 2010 at 01:45 pm

Are we supposed to believe that the dumpster divers "became suspicious" and acted on an "anonymous tip"? Why bother lying? They were out to get dirt on Palin by any means possible, and they got it. Good for the getting; bad for the alibiing

20. janicehand - April 14, 2010 at 02:24 pm

The dark days of dumpster diving and anonymous griping are clearly here. When political people choose to speak, they often get pilloried at the podium. That's the way things are today. You can bet that Ms. Palin is not only used to it, but relishes it as a statement of the need for her to speak more often. But, of course, she'll be well-paid to do so.

21. panacea - April 14, 2010 at 03:07 pm

@ #11: Mr. Foster stated, "And spelling is relatively trivial."

What a curious statement from someone posting on an educational forum . . .

22. jffoster - April 14, 2010 at 03:41 pm

Panacea, (21) take a course in Linguistics or read a couple of good books on it and you'll begin to get your curiosity both satisfied and whetted.

23. lslerner - April 14, 2010 at 03:46 pm

What impresses me the most about this incident is the resourcefulness of the two young ladies, journalism majors, I think, who did the investigative reporting that led to the discovery of the incriminating papers. I wish both of them successful careers in investigative journalism!

24. scubagrrl88 - April 14, 2010 at 06:38 pm

#23- I agree with you :) And for all those folks getting all tied up about whther this is Sarah Palin-bashing or not, I think you missed the point. It is about being in line with personal and moral integrity, accountability, honesty, and taking responsibility. On a personal level, I do not agree with Ms. Palin's political views. Nonetheless, I respect her as a fellow human being who has valuable things to say and offer. All that was needed here transparency. Just be open about how much she, or any speaker is getting paid. Is that a lot to ask? I guess so, apparently....

25. jffoster - April 15, 2010 at 07:34 am

If she's not being paid with tax money, why is it the public general's business how much she getting paid is?

26. goxewu - April 15, 2010 at 07:39 am

<Comment removed by moderator>

27. mymoon - April 15, 2010 at 09:05 am

I agree with #23, 24. Thank you!

28. sqrtnegone - April 15, 2010 at 09:34 am

The real hypocrite here is Palin. She travels around the country claiming to represent the middle-class 'Joe-six-packs' while in reality she is just as guilty of elitism as anyone she criticizes. That's why she insisted in keeping the details of her contract secret. She has a long history of expecting 5-star treatment while promoting herself as a regular, everyday hockey-mom.

29. robtsum - April 15, 2010 at 09:43 am

Some (all, perhaps) of the Palin fans need to re-read the article; it states clearly why the investigation is underway. So, calm down and re-read, slowly, and then react in the typical way Palin fans do: utter blindness.

30. jchristophm - April 15, 2010 at 09:50 am

I am always amazed how fast my fellow academics are to unsheathe the ad hominem argument. If you are conservative, then you are stupid. End of discussion.

31. sanjaykapur - April 15, 2010 at 09:50 am

There is no such thing as a "private" foundation controlled by a public institution. It is private ONLY and ONLY if its officers and board are not appointed by the institution.

32. jsch0602 - April 15, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Jerry Brown has wrapped up his investigation of ACORN and is ready to move on to more important matters. Unfortunately news no longer sells. Only scandal sells. If no scandal exists, it is necessary to invent one.

33. johntoradze - April 15, 2010 at 12:26 pm

My hypocratic oath abjures me to demur!

On a more oafish note, I see that CSU administration in the classic retaliatory method of president Yudof has attacked the journalism students through the lapdog campus police department. A report was filed with the UC police accusing the young women of theft of the document(s) from a recycle bin, claiming that "only that document was missing".

And yet, a week ago when the documents were requested from the university, they said they didn't have them.

(For those who don't know, Yudof is the guy who ran none other than David Kessler, former head of the FDA out of UC for the capital crime of asking, "Hey! Where did the money go?!" Kessler has filed a lawsuit against UC. Bluntly put, these guys run a RICO operation.)

34. johntoradze - April 15, 2010 at 12:27 pm

(Sorry - report was filed with the CSU police, not UC. And Yudof is a role model for the CSU administranimals, not in charge of them.)

35. headmin - April 15, 2010 at 12:43 pm

I find it curious progessive's go into a tizzy with regards to Sarah Palin and have to revert to name calling rather than choosing to be substantative. I often hear from those who don't like Palin characterize her as a bubblehead and in osrchron's comment, as a "fear propagation machine and full of lies".

Oh really? Or is it that she is telling more truth than you want the public to hear and would be happier if she would just shut up and sit down. Is academe so blind not to see the fiscal juggernaut we as a nation are facing? How many have been laid off at your institution?

Thank God there are some out there who are willing to challenge the unconstitutional, spend us into oblivion status quo.

36. davidmo - April 15, 2010 at 04:15 pm

Senator Yee is in violation of California Education Code Section 66607: "The California State University shall be entirely
independent of all political and sectarian influence and kept free
therefrom in the appointment of its trustees and in the
administration of its affairs." Another prime example of a Bay Area politician sticking his nose under the Central California tent.

37. sqrtnegone - April 16, 2010 at 12:14 am

I find it curious that somebody is trying to suggest that progressives do the lion's share of name-calling. With regards to Sarah Palin, she has attained a celebrity status, but that does not make her a source of 'truth'. Exactly what truth does she espouse?

As far as challenging the unconstitutional, where was all this righteous anger when Bush and Cheney were stripping away individual rights with respect to due process for detainees? Where was Sarah and the Tea Party when Bush was authorizing illegal wiretaps? Why did they allow the last administration to spend us into oblivion by going to war without being able to pay for it? What about the tax breaks for the wealthy that were not paid for by reduced spending in other areas? Sorry, but you are too little, too late.

38. sqrtnegone - April 16, 2010 at 12:15 am

Personally, I love it when Palin is in the limelight. I would love for her to run for national office. She could pick Bachmann as her running mate. You could charge admission to the show. It would be entertaining on so many levels.

39. headmin - April 16, 2010 at 04:56 pm


Yes, let's blame the previous administration, that makes it all better. After all everything we are experiencing today is because of Bush, right? So because Bush was so bad we should continue to follow the same formula but this time times ten.

I forgot criticizing progressives is off limits. We are only allowed to speak of conservatives, especially tea party types as the source of all evil. Oh yes, and to shut up and sit down.

40. sqrtnegone - April 16, 2010 at 09:07 pm

Headmin, it is called reading comprehension, try it next time before spouting off. Instead of answering my question you spent your time blathering about something that was unrelated to my post, and finished off with hyperbole. Of course, the reason you did so was to avoid addressing the question.

41. supertatie - April 16, 2010 at 11:08 pm

I cannot understand why things are bad when Bush and Cheney do them, and A-OK when Obama does. Or, conversely, why "dissent is the highest form of patriotism" when Bush is President, but abject racism when Obama is.

A great many self-identified conservatives (Judge Napolitano is a good example) objected strenuously to expansions of government controls, as well as ridiculous spending (Medicare Part D, TARP) and unfunded mandates (No Child Left Behind).

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