Students say they found documents relating to Sarah Palin fundraiser at Cal State Stanislaus
Two Cal State Stanislaus students said Tuesday they found documents in a trash container outside an administration building relating to an upcoming fundraising appearance by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, including arrangements for accommodations, security and “air travel for two between Anchorage, Alaska and the event city.”
Ashli Briggs and Alicia Lewis, who previously had spoken out against the Palin visit, said they were informed of “suspicious activity” taking place at the administration building last Friday and that after deciding to look around, they and other students saw trash being placed in the container. Inside, they said, they found shredded and intact documents, including some that appear to be parts of the contract between the Washington Speaker’s Bureau, which represents Palin, and the university foundation that is hosting her.
The nonprofit foundation had refused to provide details of Palin's June 25 appearance, including her speaking fees.
Briggs and Lewis, both political science majors, spoke at a Sacramento news conference Tuesday that was attended by state Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), who is seeking information about the terms of the contract with Palin.
The Palin visit has become a test case for Yee and other open-government advocates who believe there should be more transparency in the foundations and other nonprofit groups affiliated with public universities and colleges. Yee is sponsoring legislation, SB 330, that would require those groups to adhere to California’s Public Records Act.
The groups argue that as private, nonprofit organizations, the state law doesn’t apply to them. In the case of Palin’s appearance, Cal State Stanislaus Foundation President Matt Swanson has said no public funds are being used for her compensation and that the Washington Speakers Bureau requires that the financial terms remain confidential.
None of the documents disclosed Tuesday refer directly to Palin or say how much she is being paid. Yee said the fee could be as high as $100,000 based on information about her compensation for other recent appearances.
According to the contract addendum, dated March 16, the “speaker” will be provided with “roundtrip, commercial air travel for two between Anchorage, Alaska and event city,” “a one-bedroom suite and two single rooms in a deluxe hotel,” as well as a “laptop computer and printer (fully stocked with paper) and high speed internet.”
“For Q&A the questions are to be collected from the audience in advance, pre-screened and a designated representative shall ask questions directly of the speaker,” the documents said.
Other stipulations spell out the terms for autographs, photographs, recording, lighting, bottled water and “bendable straws.”
The students said they will give the documents to state Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown.
“Turning over this information to the attorney general is important so that any wrongdoing can be addressed and prevented from reoccurring in the future,” said Lewis. “If this helps push for financial transparency on college campuses, then those of us involved know we did the right thing.”
-- Carla Rivera
Photo: L.A. Times file