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Hillary Clinton Speaking Fee Raises Questions About UConn Foundation Transparency

by Christine Stuart | Jul 8, 2014 5:30am
(14) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Education, Ethics, FOIA, Nonprofits, Taxes, Transparency, Mansfield-Storrs

Megan Merrigan file photo

Hillary Clinton

Last week, the Washington Post reported that former Secretary of the State Hillary Clinton was paid more than $251,250 to speak to 2,300 students at the University of Connecticut in April. The news has at least two gubernatorial candidates crying foul, while Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the foundation defended the decision.

At an unrelated event Monday, Malloy said it’s his understanding that the money was given to the University of Connecticut Foundation with the express purpose of paying Clinton’s speaking fee.

“They were private dollars and that’s how they got spent,” Malloy said.

University of Connecticut Foundation President Josh Newton said the money for Clinton’s visit came from the Edmund Fusco Family of New Haven. The family set up a special fund with the foundation to cover costs associated with its speaker series.

“No tuition or tax dollars are used to pay speakers who come to UConn as part of the series,” Newton said. “As with all donations, the foundation honors the intent of the donor; to use the funds for any purpose other than that specified by the donor would be a breach of the agreement.”

But not everybody believes him.

Jonathan Pelto, a third-party candidate for governor, said the claim that no taxpayer dollars were used to fund Clinton’s 30-minute speaking engagement is misleading.

He said the University of Connecticut Foundation is a private organization which is exempt from the state’s Freedom of Information laws. Without access to the foundation’s financials, it’s hard to know — beyond trusting what they say — where the money to pay Clinton may have originated.

“In a long standing deal between the University of Connecticut and its foundation, UConn uses taxpayer and students’ funds to subsidize the foundation so that it will look more successful,” Pelto alleged in a statement. He also pointed out that the speech came at a time when state support for the university has declined and tuition is expected to increase 6.5 percent in 2015.

“This year approximately $9 million will be shifted from UConn’s taxpayer and student-funded operating fund to the foundation,” Pelto said. “To suggest that none of that money helped pay for Hillary Clinton’s fee and visit to UConn is simply wrong.”

Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley agreed with Pelto.

“Diverting funds meant to benefit UConn students to political purposes is a particularly egregious violation of the public trust,” Foley said in a statement last week.

However, in fairness Clinton did not speak about her potential bid for president in 2016, and University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst did not ask her about it.

Clinton spoke about the millennial generation, and did not shy away from topics like immigration, foreign policy, and whistleblower Edward Snowden. She was presented with UConn onesies for her future grandchildren.

Meanwhile, legislation that would have brought greater transparency to the University of Connecticut Foundation died in committee this year after a public hearing in February.

Paula Pearlman, a staff attorney for the Freedom of Information Commission, testified that under current law the UConn Foundation is not considered a public agency even though it clearly serves a public function.

“As its mission states the Foundation operates exclusively to promote the educational, scientific, cultural, research, and recreational objectives of the University of Connecticut. Thus arrangements between the UConn Foundation and the University of Connecticut are part of the conduct of the public’s business and not to be subject to greater public scrutiny under the FOI Act,” Pearlman told the Government Administration and Elections Committee in February.

The legislation also would have subjected the foundation to financial audits by the Auditors of Public Accounts.

Claude Albert, legislative chair of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information, testified that his organization believes the foundation “acts largely as a surrogate for the university.”

“It manages hundreds of millions of dollars on behalf of the school. It raises money on behalf of the school,” Albert told the committee in February.

Albert said disclosure of the information should inspire even greater confidence in the organization and its mission.

Malloy said he thought the foundation was pretty transparent and that for every dollar the state invests in staffing the foundation, $8 to $9 is returned.

“They’ve raised about $711 million over the last few years,” Malloy said. “That’s a very substantial commitment on the part of alumni, foundations, and employers in the state of Connecticut, so I don’t know what the rules to transparency are with respect to the foundation. Happy to take a look at them.”

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(14) Comments

posted by: shinningstars122 | July 8, 2014  6:05am

shinningstars122

$8375 a minute for her time…that would make even Tom Foley jealous.

This is one of the biggest reasons I prefer not seeing Hillary run. She is simply, or rather blatantly, a card carrying member of the plutocracy.

Most of us would need nearly two months of work to earn that per minute fee.

That is problem folks we keep thinking rich people will have, and keep, our best interests at heart…dream on.

posted by: Joebigjoe | July 8, 2014  8:10am

I don’t care if it’s Hillary Clinton or a Conservative Republican. NO ONE is worth 250K for a speech, unless 200K of that is going directly to a charity we are all familiar with.

posted by: DirtyJobsGUy | July 8, 2014  10:36am

These are quite simply political donations.  My alma mater RPI donated $80K to the Clinton library when she was Senator.  Why would a non-profit school donate to a presidential library?  Only if this was a quid pro quo for Sen Clinton’s support for federal grants.  What crooks.

posted by: dano860 | July 8, 2014  12:49pm

She stated that all of her earnings from speeches are going directly to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Foundation, formerly known as the Clinton Foundation. Technically that all goes to charity so that’s a good thing, right?
So someone needs to figure out the minutiae behind the foundation at UCONN.

posted by: PWS2003 | July 8, 2014  3:49pm

The issue here is not what Hillary did with this fee but rather what the UCONN leadership was doing paying such a fee. I’m told that next semester tuition at UCONN will increase close to 6.5% in this economy and in this depressed CT job market. The President of this institution made reportedly $738 in 2012, and her resume is heavy on number crunching. These numbers speak to a failure in leadership at UCONN and CT’S Higher Educationnal establishment and needs to be corrected. We do have National Basketball Championships and other great things to be proud of out of UCONN, but this episode is not one of them.

posted by: PWS2003 | July 8, 2014  5:53pm

Sorry for typo. Should read $738K.

posted by: QuestionMark | July 8, 2014  8:01pm

Only a big Democratic spender/recipient of taxpayer money like Malloy would approve of this wasteful payola to Hillary Clinton. Perhaps Malloy hopes this appeasement to Hillary will give him points for a vice-presidential consideration in 2016. Malloy keeps morally approving more deficit spending in Connecticut, which he does repeatedly “without blinking an eye.”  If Malloy is a friend, Connecticut taxpayers need no enemies.

posted by: DrHunterSThompson | July 9, 2014  7:59am

DrHunterSThompson

Dirty is right, but it is the nature of the world.  You won’t catch the good Doctor sending any more dough UConn’s way, that is for sure.

This fee/expenditure is so far outside the stratosphere of reasonable that 2 dudes burning a fatty couldn’t understand it.

HST

posted by: NoNonsense2014 | July 9, 2014  2:02pm

Is the objection here to Hillary Clinton getting those big bucks, or is it anybody getting those big bucks? And as for whether anybody is “worth” that amount of money for a speech: nobody (Clinton or otherwise) could command such a fee if somebody were not willing to pay it. Just as movie stars or music stars get big bucks for what they do, I guess it’s whatever the market will bear. Personally, I think a quarter of a million-plus for a speech is ridiculous; and were I in charge of the UConn Foundation, my response to a request (from anybody) for that fee would have been, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

posted by: Joebigjoe | July 9, 2014  2:44pm

“And as for whether anybody is “worth” that amount of money for a speech: nobody (Clinton or otherwise) could command such a fee if somebody were not willing to pay it. “

People will pay that because they want something in return or they feel that saying they had a speaker like this will do something for their own view of their self importance.

posted by: QuestionMark | July 9, 2014  3:54pm

An old saying typifies this fiasco; “There’s a sucker born every day.”

posted by: PWS2003 | July 9, 2014  5:44pm

And Mark it would seem that it is the Taxpayers of CT that are as you say the “suckers.”

posted by: QuestionMark | July 10, 2014  10:03am

PWS2003:  You are absolutely correct. Misguided voters who vote for false deficit prosperity under Gov. Malloy’s Democratic regime are unfortunately the suckers that keep burying the state into national leadership in debt that our grandchildren will be burdened to try to payoff. Has the intelligence of Connecticut voters dropped to an all-time low “that’s keeping taxpayers paying through the nose drowning in a sea of of red ink?”

posted by: QuestionMark | July 10, 2014  4:22pm

ShinningStars122:  We agree on something.  We prefer not seeing Hillary run. God bless America!