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Friday, June 4, 2010

Don't blame Palin

A California state senator's attacks on Sarah Palin's speaking contract with Cal State Stanislaus are off base.

Sarah Palin may be — well, let's face it, she is — a polarizing political figure. We differ with her on many topics, but we support her right as a private citizen to make good money for her public appearances. A California state senator's attacks on her contract with Cal State Stanislaus are off base and weaken his original, stronger argument for better public disclosure by private foundations that raise funds for state universities.

The dustup began when one such foundation, based at Cal State Stanislaus, hired the former Alaska governor to speak at a June 25 fundraiser, but refused to divulge her speaking fee to students or to Sen. Leland Yee (D- San Francisco) on the grounds that it was a private organization, not a public one. A watchdog group sued.

The assumption was that the fee might amount to $100,000, similar to Palin's fees for several other appearances. Yee used this to promote his bill, SB 330, which would require foundations for the University of California and California State University to follow the same disclosure rules as public agencies.

The legal debate plays on, but in the meantime, people who gained access to the contract report that Palin is being paid $75,000 plus expenses that include bottled water and bendable straws. That led to a new round of criticism from Yee, who said the foundation had failed in its duty to negotiate a good deal and that Palin was lining her pockets at the expense of California college students.

Hardly. If Palin had chosen to waive her fee, that of course would have been lovely, but it's not her responsibility to donate to Cal State Stanislaus; that's the job of the foundation. Love her or not, she can make $500-a-plate tickets sell. The fundraiser is expected to net more than $150,000 for the university. When foundations act as quasi-public agencies, using state university offices, personnel and funds, they should indeed be subject to public disclosure rules. Unlike Yee, though, we do not believe that the foundations should be subject to extra scrutiny simply because they exist to contribute to a public agency. That would be an improper intrusion on private organizations. Yee's unwarranted criticism casts an unfortunate shadow on his potentially helpful legislation.(Source LA Times editorial)

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