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OP-ED | Hillary’s UConn Hypocrisyfest A Blessing in Disguise

by Terry D. Cowgill | Jul 11, 2014 5:30am
(10) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Election 2016, FOIA, Opinion, Transparency

Madeline Stocker / CTNewsJunkie

Hillary Clinton speaks April on the UConn campus in Storrs.

UConn Foundation Has Become A Slush Fund For Frivolity, Shielded From Public Scrutiny

Why do people hate hypocrisy so much? After all, there are worse sins. Robbing a convenience store or gunning down a bunch of schoolchildren comes to mind, for example. Yet when public officials say one thing and do another, it gets the blood boiling like nothing else.

At the same time, hypocrisy in public life should come as no surprise. Having written about politics since my college years, I’ve come to the conclusion that most politicians are phonies — and the higher up the food chain you go, the phonier they are.

But alarms nonetheless went off when I learned last week that Hillary Clinton had earned a cool quarter of a million bucks for the task of doling out crumbs of wisdom to the UConn community for half an hour in April. Again, this should come as no surprise, as the Clintons’ speech-making prowess is now legendary. Former President Bill Clinton has made almost $105 million giving speeches since he left office in January 2001.

In this case, however, it was my ox being gored. How could a cash-strapped, taxpayer-funded university in my home state — an institution that’s raising tuition by 6.5 percent next year — fork over that kind of cash to a piggy-backing celebrity whose main claim to fame is that she’s married to a former president who gets paid even more to make a speech than she does?

At this point, UConn is hanging its hat on the university’s foundation, which officials say paid for Hillary’s Oprah-like chat with UConn President Susan Herbst. But we have no way of confirming that because the notoriously secretive University of Connecticut Foundation is exempt from the state’s Freedom of Information laws. Nevertheless, two gubernatorial candidates are saying it’s distinction without a difference anyway.

Independent gubernatorial candidate Jonathan Pelto, who was first elected state representative while still a UConn student, insists that the university has subsidized the foundation with $86 million out of the UConn operating budget over the last decade. Likely GOP nominee Tom Foley has also slammed the transaction as a “misappropriation.”

But even more troubling is the possibility, raised by The New Haven Register in a blistering editorial last week, that Hillary’s fee is tantamount to a tax-deductible campaign donation by the Fusco family, which established the UConn Foundation fund that paid her ridiculous fee.

And seeing as Hillary is in the middle of a much-noticed but disastrous book tour, how wise is it for the foundation to be paying her to appear before a highly educated university audience? If anything, Hillary’s publisher should be cutting a check to the university for the privilege of reaching a lucrative block of potential readers.

Then there is the matter of Hillary herself. As a capitalist, I don’t resent her ability to sell herself to the highest bidder. I’d love to make hundreds of thousands for a few hours of my time. But I’m not someone who complains a lot about income inequality or who brags about supporting the estate tax, while doing everything possible to protect my estate from it, using methods available only to the top one percent.

Nor am I a member of the academy who calls for social justice while happily supplying an obscene payday to a publicity-seeking politician with an eight-figure net worth.

Perhaps all this hypocrisy is a blessing in disguise. It has had the unintended effect of focusing attention on the UConn Foundation, which has also been used in recent years to fund the travels of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to such exotic places as China and Switzerland. Looks like anytime the state wants to spend money on something it knows it can’t get away with, it turns to the foundation as a sort of slush fund that shields it from the charge of using taxpayer funds for frivolous endeavors. Plus, using the foundation protects the state from those pesky Freedom of Information laws that torment the government.

If ever there’s a time for lawmakers to shine some sunlight on that foundation, it’s right now.

Contributing op-ed columnist Terry Cowgill lives in Lakeville, blogs at ctdevilsadvocate.com and is news editor of The Berkshire Record in Great Barrington, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @terrycowgill.

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(10) Comments

posted by: nero123 | July 11, 2014  7:53am

It now seems quaint that Hillary Clinton’s trading in cattle futures in the late ‘70s generated so much controversy over a measly $100,000 profit.

posted by: RAN | July 11, 2014  8:58am

The author couldn’t be more correct.  Hillary, the Democrat party and academia all rail against the so called 1% as they skim taxpayer dollars for themselves.  There is no greed like a politicians greed.

posted by: PWS2003 | July 11, 2014  9:12am

Hammer hit nail, excellent post. Part of the problem is we have a new out of state leader at that institution that in 2012 was the 13th highest paid President of all the public higher education institutions in our country. If you are paid in an amount that gets you in the 1% bracket it would seem that you act accordingly. Lets not forget her first quote concerning the female students that felt that they had been mistreated by that institution after having been sexually assaulted there, was “the claims were “astonishingly misguided and demonstrably untrue.”

Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2013/11/14/uconn-president-responds-anger-title-ix-complaint#ixzz37AHOmHLP
Inside Higher Ed

That is not the kind of leadership that many fathers and mothers of female students would appreciate. Her resume is heavy on number crunching, so one can understand her lack of empathy, but CT deserves better.

posted by: PWS2003 | July 11, 2014  9:25am

And BTW, UCONN under her leadership has joined the list of 55 other colleges and universities that are under federal investigation for failure to properly address Title 9 violations.
http://time.com/2969580/claire-mccaskill-campus-sexual-assault-rape/
Maybe it’s time for new leadership, that is less about numbers and more about education and the welfare of the students.

posted by: ocoandasoc | July 11, 2014  8:56pm

Virtually anywhere in Connecticut politics and government that you shine a light where none has been shone before you will find something unseemly, at best, and unethical and perhaps illegal at worst. The ruling class in CT believes they are above the law and feel no need to explain their decisions and arrogant behaviors to the peasants they are supposed to be serving. The State’s top educational administrators are among the worst offenders.

posted by: JusticePartyCT | July 11, 2014  9:00pm

There are countless agencies and organizations in Connecticut that need sunlight let in. The citizens must demand transparency and open government from smallest budgets to the largest. This is a problem across the country that stems from the duopoly of the Democrat and GOP parties. Connecticut Justice Party

posted by: art vandelay | July 12, 2014  8:45am

art vandelay

I wonder if the Uconn Foundation would pay 250K to Sarah Palin or Bill O’Reilly to speak.  I doubt it! So much for the free expression of ideas on the university campus.

posted by: bob8/57 | July 12, 2014  12:55pm

bob8/57

After reading this I’ve come to the conclusion that most pundits are sanctimonious phonies — and the higher up the food chain you go, the phonier they are. Vote Hillery in 2016

posted by: shinningstars122 | July 12, 2014  4:35pm

shinningstars122

Folks can jump to the conclusion that this is a partisan issue but it is not.

UConn has inadvertently opened the flood gates to greater transparency and scrutiny.

The bottom line is that nepotism is the calling card for most elected officials in Washington no matter their political party.

I mean you want to become a millionaire? Get elected to Congress. Plus you get benefits for life too
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/10/us/politics/more-than-half-the-members-of-congress-are-millionaires-analysis-finds.html?_r=0

We should demand it. I mean Foley, being a Harvard man, will lead the charge.

UConn has become a powerhouse and many of us appreciate and enjoy that success, including the students and graduates.

Do folks honestly believe that other NCAA Class 1 Universities operate any differently?

It is just another layer of the onion to how things have gone the last forty years in our country.

Wake up folks! The plutocracy are the biggest takers out there and it is never enough for them.

posted by: One and Done | July 13, 2014  11:32am

The real hypocrisy is a media that continues to act like nothing happened when Dannell illegally gave his buddy a $300,000 salary to run the state colleges from his home in Indiana, where he was busy giving out 50,000 raises to Malloy’s cronies.  If it were a republican, we’d have a story about that at least once a week leading up to the election.