March 30, 2010; San Francisco Chronicle | Calls for increasing foundation transparency are getting an interesting push in Califorina. A state lawmaker has asked a California State University (CSU) foundation what it plans to pay Sarah Palin to speak at a $500-a-plate black-tie fundraiser at the Stanislaus campus in June.
So far, the foundation is not speaking. Matt Swanson, president of the Stanislaus Foundation, says the contract with the former vice presidential candidate won’t allow him to publicly disclose her speaking fee. State Sen. Leland Yee requested information about the speaking fee as part of what the San Francisco Chronicle describes as the San Francisco lawmaker’s effort to make the operations of public university foundations more transparent.
In a statement issued Monday Yee said, “At a time when students are struggling to afford an education at CSU, I would hope that spending potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars on a guest speaker for a black-tie gala would be low on the priority list.” California State University Stanislaus officials say the speaking event is meant to raise, not cost the school money.
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According to the Chronicle, the Stanislaus Foundation is one of 87 that benefit some 23 university campuses throughout the state. “Everything we do is funded with private money,” said Swanson. “Our goal is to raise a nice chunk of change—$100,000 to $200,000 net after costs.”
Aside from concerns about the foundation’s refusal to disclose fees, Palin’s upcoming talk is generating heat simply because she’s the guest speaker. Lillian Taiz, president of the California Faculty Association, says if the school’s only goal is to raise money “why not Paris Hilton? She has about as much academic value and would probably bring even more money.” Like it or not, looks like the outspoken Palin, who’s both a magnet for money and controversy, has found herself in the crosshairs of this very public fight.—Bruce Trachtenberg