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Trashed document outlines alleged perks for Palin

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Sarah Palin's perks under fire
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • California state college foundation allegedly considered perks to hire Sarah Palin as speaker
  • Attorney General Jerry Brown has opened an investigation into the foundation's finances
  • Document detailing contractual details allegedly found in trash by 2 students
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(CNN) -- First-class commercial air travel for two or a private jet -- "must be a Lear 60 or larger" -- from Alaska to California and back. A deluxe hotel suite "registered under an alias." And two unopened bottles of still water with "bendable straws."

That's what former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin wanted from a California state college foundation as part of her speaking agreement, according to a draft of a confidential contract allegedly lifted from a Dumpster by two students.

That a publicly funded college would consider spending money in this fashion sparked controversy. But that the speaker was none other than Palin has taken the flap to a whole new level.

Attorney General Jerry Brown opened an investigation Tuesday into the finances of the California State University Stanislaus Foundation, which raises money for the university and booked Palin to headline its June event.

"We are taking this action to make sure that the money raised goes toward the intended educational purposes and not a dollar is wasted or misspent," said Brown, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate.

State Sen. Leland Yee, also a Democrat, has demanded to see the speaking contract, citing the public records Act. At a Tuesday news conference, Yee said any destruction of requested documents violated the law.

CSU President Hamid Shirvani said the foundation's offices are on university grounds, but it is a charity -- not a public institution -- and as such, is not covered by the Public Records Act.

"We welcome the investigation and expect it will clarify how a foundation document could have ended up in a state senator's hands," said Shirvani, also a member of the foundation's board.

He said he believes the document was stolen from a recycling bin in the office of the foundation's executive director.

But students Alicia Lewis and Ashli Briggs, who presented the pages at a news conference, disputed that Wednesday.

"We just took the documents, as they were stacked, out of the Dumpster," Lewis said. "Inside of it was just pages four through nine of the Sarah Palin contract."

The document did not state Palin's fee for the upcoming speaking engagement. In the past, she has reportedly been paid as much as $100,000.

Aides to the former Alaska governor referred inquiries to Palin's speaking agency, which did not return calls Wednesday.

Shirvani said the contract forbids her sum from being disclosed, but the issue of her fee is irrelevant because the cost will be paid for entirely by the foundation, not with taxpayers' money.

Shirvani said the foundation was simply interested in raising money for the university and that's how it billed the June 25 Palin event. It sold out quickly, he said, and will net an unprecedented $200,000 or more for the university.

"We're not taking your money, state money, to give it to Sarah Palin," he said.

One Washington publicist said such specific requests from a speaking agency are not out of the ordinary.

"I didn't really think it looked unusual," said Linda Roth, who handles events and fundraisers for charities and celebrities, including the Cardiac Foundation of CNN's Larry King.

Asked whether the university intends to discipline the students, Shirvani said that was "not on the radar." But he said that Brown and Yee were using questions about a speaking fee as a pawn for "political theater."

"If I had invited -- I assure you -- [populist filmmaker] Michael Moore, or Vice President [Al] Gore, or anybody of that stature, there would be no questions and no eyebrows raised," he said.

The two students denied that their Dumpster-diving was politically motivated. They said they do not belong to any political groups like the College Democrats and insisted they were only seeking transparency on the part of university spending.

In a statement on the university's Web site, foundation board President Matt Swanson said the controversy was unfortunate given declining state support for higher education and the dependence on private fundraisers.

"It's a dark day," he said, "when an entity that's sole purpose is to raise money for student services and university programs is falsely accused of wrongdoing."

CNN's Dugald McConnell, Brian Todd, Dan Simon and Augie Martin contributed to this report.

 
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