Did Sen. Leland Yee just evoke Watergate in his ongoing quest to discern how much California State University-Stanislaus will pay Sarah Palin for a forthcoming speech? You betcha.
When it was last month announced the former Republican vice-presidential candidate would appear at the Turlock college in June for its 50th anniversary, Yee queried how much she would be paid
; Palin has earned six figures for past appearances
The state senator's moves inspired two responses from the university. First, it claimed that its university foundation -- the privately funded auxiliary of the school officially hosting Palin
-- was not subject to the California Public Records Act
, and therefore didn't have to turn over any papers. But the university claimed that to be a moot point, because the school's compliance officer, Gina Leguria, informed Yee's office
that "The University has no documents that are responsive to your request."
And yet, at a Sacramento press conference this morning, a pair of CSU-Stanislaus students claim they discovered university officials on April 9 -- a furlough Friday -- shredding the very documents the school claimed it did not have, and disposing of them in a dumpster.
"This is a dark day for California State University, particularly the Stanislaus campus," Yee said. "I never thought we'd have to relive Watergate again. But, to some extent, this is our little Watergate here in the state of California."
CSU officials' alleged shredding spree came two days after Yee asked the state Attorney General's office to investigate whether the university was withholding documents related to Palin's appearance.
"We saw activity inside the closed and gated building. We saw a student taking garbage into dumpsters out there," said Alicia Lewis, one of the CSU-Stanislaus students who claim to have witnessed the document disposal. "We opened the dumpster and it had paper documents in there related to the university. It was the Sarah Palin contract our school said it didn't have mixed in with university paperwork. ... We chose to turn it over to the Attorney General's office for investigation." Lewis and fellow student Ashli Briggs
said they and around five other students, outraged by the university's choice of Palin as its commemorative speaker, have been demonstrating against the university and digging through dumpsters.
Terry Francke of the government transparency group CalAware
said he could file suit against CSU-Stanislaus as early as this week depending whether or not the Attorney General launches the aforementioned investigation.
From the documents on Washington Speakers Bureau letterhead Lewis and Briggs claim to have unearthed from a Turlock dumpster:
- Stipulations for "Round-trip, first class commercial air travel for two between Anchorage, Alaska and event city"
- Requirements for "full, unrestricted round-trip coach airfare for two between event city and lower 48 US States."
- If the university were to hire a private jet, "the Speaker, their traveling party and the plane crew will be the only passengers."
- Ground transportation in both the originating city and the event city "will be by SUV(s) from a professionally licensed and insured car service."
- "security arrangements as deemed necessary by [Washington Speakers Bureau] and the Speaker."
- Accommodations are to include "a one-bedroom suite and two single rooms in a deluxe hotel" as well as a "laptop computer and printer (fully stocked with paper) and high speed internet" and "all meals and incidentals."
- "For Q&A, the questions are to be collected from the audience in advance, pre-screened and a designated representative shall ask questions directly of the Speaker."
- The contract also includes other stipulations regarding autographs, photographs, press releases, advertising, recording, lighting, bottled water and "bendable straws."