After months of requests from reporters, a California university has agreed to allow members of the media to attend a fundraiser next week featuring Sarah Palin.
Officials with California State University, Stanislaus issued an e-mail advisory Friday announcing that the June 25 gala at its Turlock campus would be open to the press. The Associated Press has been requesting access to the event since mid-April.
Palin’s appearance has generated widespread coverage and criticism since it was announced in March. University officials have refused to divulge the terms of the former Alaska governor’s contract or her speaking fee for the event, where the least expensive tickets cost $500.
CSU Stanislaus says its foundation handled the negotiations and is legally exempt from public records requirements. Palin has commanded fees as high as $100,000.
A spokesman for one of CSU’s most vocal critics in the matter, state Sen. Leland Yee, said Friday the decision to allow media access should have been a “no-brainer.”
“It’s somewhat mind-boggling this took so long,” said the spokesman, Adam Keigwin.
Keigwin said Yee, a San Francisco Democrat, would encourage the university to extend the same invitation to its students.
CSU Stanislaus officials said it was never their intention to keep reporters out of the June 25 event.
“We always knew there would be great demand for Gov. Palin because she is such a compelling public figure,” said university spokeswoman Eve Hightower.
Last month, CSU Stanislaus released dozens of documents in response to California Public Records Act requests from the AP and the open-government group Californians Aware.
The paperwork included e-mails documenting the university’s efforts to limit public fallout over Palin’s visit. It did not include information about her contract.
The state attorney general’s office is currently conducting an investigation into the CSU Stanislaus Foundation’s finances as well as allegations by several students that university officials threw away Palin-related documents in a campus trash bin in April.
One of the documents recovered at the time appeared to be a portion of Palin’s contract, detailing perks such as first-class airfare for two, deluxe hotel accommodations and bottles of water complete with bendable straws.
Palin has since waded into California politics. She endorsed former Hewlett-Packard Co. chief executive Carly Fiorina in her bid to unseat Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer and is backing Star Parker, a long-shot Republican candidate challenging Democratic Rep. Laura Richardson in a heavily Democratic Los Angeles-area congressional district.
Next week’s address to the university foundation will be Palin’s second speech to a large California audience this year.
In February, she addressed a logging conference in Redding, 160 miles north of Sacramento, telling attendees that research supporting global climate change was a “bunch of snake oil science.”