Yee's two-fer: Bashing Palin while promoting sunshine


Sen. Leland Yee scored a two-fer yesterday when he blasted a California State University organization for hiding how much it’s playing Sarah Palin for a speaking gig, raising an important sunshine issue and knocking Palin’s populism-for-pay schtick in the process. And at the heart of the issue is how public education institutions increasingly use foundations to avoid accountability.

That issue was recently raised in San Francisco, when City College Foundation sought to keep its financial dealings secret. The Guardian sounded the alarm last month, and City College Trustee John Rizzo, who led the fight for more sunshine, negotiated a more open arrangement that the Board of Trustees unanimously approved last week.

“We got most of what we wanted,” Rizzo told us. “Most of the things are open and they have to give us a quarterly report on donations.”

Yee – who the Society of Professional Journalist-NorCal recently honored with a James Madison Award for his struggles to promote greater government transparency and protections for journalists – has long been fighting for more sunshine in the CSU and UC systems, which is particularly important as they make deep cuts to higher education spending. For example, Yee’s Senate Bill 330 would explicitly require those systems to adhere to the California Public Records Act.    

“These are public institutions that should embrace transparency and accountability,” Yee said yesterday in a press release announcing his request that CSU-Stanislaus’s foundation disclose how much it is paying Palin for a $500 per head speech on June 25. The press release triggered a front-page story in today’s San Francisco Chronicle, with CSU and foundation officials rebuffing Yee’s request.

So now, Yee gets to bash Palin and make an important stand for sunshine, both of which will likely help his nascent campaign to be elected mayor of San Francisco next year.

As Yee wrote in a letter to campus President Hamid Shirvani, who also serves as the chair of the foundation: “The sensational nature of former Governor Palin’s political commentary, coupled with an ongoing book tour, has allowed her to charge top dollar for speaking engagements. As was reported in the media, her speaking appearances typically command $100,000 per event. To that end, I request the foundation to respond to the following issues: 1. Is the former governor being compensated by the CSUS Foundation in any form for her participation in the event on June 25th?  If so, please describe the amount and nature of the compensation being awarded to the former governor.  2. Please disclose any contracts between the former governor and the CSUS Foundation involving the June 25 speaking engagement.”

Later in the press release, he added: “The CSU should immediately disclose how much money is being diverted from students to pay Sarah Palin’s exorbitant speaking fees. At a time when students are struggling to afford an education at CSU, I would hope that spending potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars on a guest speaker for a black-tie gala would be low on the priority list.  Money that is spent on bringing an out-of-touch former politician to campus could be spent on scholarships and other financial assistance during these challenging budget times.”

Win or lose, this is the right fight for Yee, both morally and politically. Go git ‘er!


The failure to fund California state colleges and universities and colleges has nothing to do with Sarah Palin. State Legislators continue to gobble headlines that build their campaigns. With the legislaure's endless addiction to diverting water and cutting funds for education, there is a mindless enthusisam for payback in the midst of social disintegration. With neither sustainable water policies nor funds for public and higher education in California, let's all celebrate at getting a swipe at Sarah Palin!. I sure wouldn't go to see Sarah Palin. But the idea that there are "pure" revenues out there for our schools and universities is an illusion, plain and simple. Keep playing games and higher education in California will end up in the same sorry situation as public K-12 education. See who's laughing then. It will probably be Palin.

Posted by Mato Ska on Mar. 30, 2010 @ 5:10 pm

Yet another reason why Yee is in the right. He voted against the bad water deal and has voted against all budget cuts to education.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 30, 2010 @ 6:44 pm

I hope this puts an end to paying for the speeches of crank's of all political stripes on college campuses.

Have we not all had enough of the pseudo populism of the Palin's, Churchill's and Zinns?

Lets hope that what results from this antic of Yee's spares us all the expensive howling of all the moon bats that annoy us all.

Posted by glen matlock on Mar. 31, 2010 @ 7:57 am

i couldn't give a pup's behind but... if she gets paid $100,000 for the speech and a tix is 500$ at least 200 people need to show up to totally cover her pay. Often she gets a couple of thousand ppl to hear her speak... so the University stands to make ALOT of cash from her appearance.

Oh... the picture that's posted of her is kinda ummm disturbing. I'm pretty sure Palin never gave a Nazi salute. This pic seems to imply that she's giving one. C'mon ppl.

Posted by goldie on Mar. 31, 2010 @ 3:48 pm

Is Yee at all interested in Bill Clinton's contract when he spoke at Cal in February? No, I didn't think so.

Cheap political opportunism.

Posted by DarrelB on May. 08, 2010 @ 1:59 pm