Palin speech may have netted $200,000 for California school

Modesto BeeJune 27, 2010 

TURLOCK, Calif. — Sarah Palin spent only a few hours in Turlock. But the repercussions of her visit will last a long time, from the big money she drew to the debate over her appearance to a legal investigation into the nonprofit foundation that signed her.

Officials of California State University, Stanislaus, said they couldn't be happier with her appearance at the 50th anniversary gala, bringing in the most money of any event in campus history.

"I am really very pleased," university President Hamid Shirvani said Saturday. "It was an extraordinary event, unprecedented in the past five years I've been associated with the university, and according to many, unprecedented as long as they have been with the university."

Stanislaus County Supervisor Vito Chiesa, who attended the gala, said the university achieved its goal.

"I think they hit a home run for raising money," he said. Officials estimated net income at $200,000. "I didn't know what all the rancor was about before; she's there for a school and she turned it into an educational speech."

But there remains plenty of rancor.

The finances of the university's foundation remain under investigation by Attorney General Jerry Brown. And a lawsuit by the watchdog group CalAware, claiming the public university employees had more involvement in the event than officials insisted, continues.

So does the effort of Sen. Leland Yee. The San Francisco Democrat, who has championed university foundation public disclosure laws, targeted CSUS over the secrecy of Palin's speaking fee in her contract for Friday's fund-raiser.

CalAware attorney Terry Francke said the fight isn't over, even though the event is.

"We were not that interested in the honorarium but interested in how involved university officers were in the planning and execution of this event," Francke told the Los Angeles Times. "It's that point that goes to the question of whether the foundation should be as transparent as the university."

Shirvani said the university will emerge unscathed.

"We have nothing to worry about with any investigation or anything at all about the foundation," he said. "We didn't do anything that was wrong or illegal."

At the same time, some alumni and donors were upset over Palin's appearance on campus. Some current faculty and students also complained, contending Palin didn't belong at the university's anniversary gala.

Shirvani said the university hopes to reach out to some of those people by inviting a wide range of political viewpoints to the school.

"The concept of the university is to be exposed to social ideas," he said. "If you want to take bold steps, you invite people who have strong opinions and are controversial."

Shirvani and foundation President Matt Swanson said the university will continue celebrating its anniversary with events through September, and the foundation will plan more fund-raisers.

One thing the foundation likely won't do is sign a confidentiality clause as with Palin.

"At least I as the university president would certainly do everything possible in my power to stay away from that," he said. "But I wouldn't be shy of bringing in another controversial person from the right or the left."

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