Video: Palin contract sparks probe

  1. Closed captioning of: Palin contract sparks probe

    >>> matt, thank you. former alaska governor sarah palin is drawing some heat herself these days over a scheduled speech, not over what she'll say, but what she's asking for to give it. nbc 's andrea mitchell has details.

    >> reporter: good morning, meredith . sarah palin is the big draw at tea party rallies all over the country , but it is the private speech that she's been hired to give at a financially-stressed california state school that has got people talking today.

    >> do you love your freedom?

    >> reporter: palin appears to be loving her freedom. she's a star at conservative rallies attacking the obama administration .

    >> is this what their change is all about? i want to tell them, nah, you know, we'll keep clinging to our constitution and our guns and religion and you can keep the change.

    >> reporter: and since the campaign , she has made some changes herself. remember this?

    >> we got rid of a few things in the governor's office that i didn't think our citizens should be paying for. like that luxury jet. it was a little bit over the top .

    >> reporter: a year-and-a-half later, the hockey mom from wasilla is palin, inc., making millions on books, a new tv series for discovery, " sarah palin 's alaska ," a lucrative contract with fox news and highly paid speeches. but a speech she's been hired to give at cal state stanislaus , 1 of 23 california campuses drowning in red ink is causing a furor. that's because students found a copy of palin's contract for the black tie event in a trash bin .

    >> at this time, it's important to know where money is going.

    >> reporter: palin's lecture requirements are typical for top-level celebrity speakers, but not for the political circuit. she commands a private jet and the contract specifies the private aircraft must be a leer 60 or larger. or first class commercial travel. her lectern must have two bottles of water and bendable straws, and she only takes questions from a pre-approved moderator. this on the campus hit with furlough fridays an a state system rocked by protests over budget cuts. california attorney general and democratic candidate for governor jerry brown is investigating.

    >> when you start spending hundreds of thousands, or millions of dollars, then there are complaints made, and there is a dumpster with records and demands for open records, that triggers enough that we want to look into it.

    >> reporter: the school says its foundation is paying the freight. but critics say the foundation is led by the university president , based on campus, and uses taxpayer supported facilities. and a new sec report from palin's political action committee shows she spent most of the money she's raised on overhead, not campaign contributions .

    >> she contributed $7,500 to candidates and she spent $14,000 de-icing a private jet .

    >> reporter: the university president says that palin is being paid with private funds to raise money for university programs and she's driving ticket sales to unprecedented levels. still , today he says that he is acting at least to investigate whether that contract was stolen from a university administrator 's office . meredith ?

    >> andrea mitchell , thank you very much . 7:17. here's matt.

    >>> michelle obama is wrapping up

updated 4/16/2010 4:57:24 PM ET 2010-04-16T20:57:24

A California open government group filed a lawsuit Friday against a state university over its refusal to disclose documents related to a planned speech by Sarah Palin.

Californians Aware filed the lawsuit in Stanislaus County Superior Court against California State University, Stanislaus, seeking an order by a judge to release information about Palin's contract with the school's nonprofit foundation.

The former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential candidate is scheduled to visit the Central Valley campus in June. Palin is now a commentator for the Fox News cable television network,

The university has repeatedly denied public records requests filed by Californians Aware, a state lawmaker and The Associated Press seeking Palin-related documents. It says contract negotiations were handled by its foundation, which it claims is legally exempt from the California Public Records Act.

Palin's fee and accommodations will be covered entirely by private donations, not state funds, foundation board president Matt Swanson has said.

A 2001 state appeals court case ruled university foundations and auxiliary organizations are not subject to the same public disclosure requirements as universities themselves. However, the court also ruled that foundation documents must be made public when they are in the university's possession.

Californians Aware described the CSU Stanislaus Foundation as a "virtual alter ego" of the university. All but one member of the foundation's staff and several officers on its board are university employees, and the headquarters of the foundation is located in the university's main administration building.

Several CSU Stanislaus students said they retrieved a portion of the contract with Palin from a trash bin outside the campus administration building last week.

The five-page document included perks such as first-class airfare for two, deluxe hotel accommodations and bottled water with bendable straws. In addition, all audience questions after the speech had to be prescreened and posed by a designated representative.

The students presented the contract along with piles of other paperwork, some of it shredded, to state Attorney General Jerry Brown on Tuesday.

Later that day, Brown's office announced it would investigate the CSU Stanislaus Foundation's finances and alleged dumping of documents.

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CSU Stanislaus president Hamid Shirvani said the document had been taken from a recycling bin inside the office of a vice president who also serves on the foundation board. He has asked police to investigate the alleged theft.

University spokeswoman Eve Hightower said Shirvani has also asked the Washington Speakers Bureau, which arranges Palin's speaking engagements, to reveal her speaking fee to help quell the controversy.

The agency has not yet responded to the request, Hightower said. It has not returned phone calls or e-mails from the AP seeking comment over the past two days.

Swanson has said a nondisclosure clause in Palin's contract prevents him from divulging her compensation package. He has not responded to requests for comment related to the investigation or the lawsuit.

State Sen. Leland Yee, a Democrat, has called for university foundations to be included under the state's public records act.

"Our public university executives need to stop acting like they are running private country clubs and personal slush funds," Yee said.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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