Senator Claims He Found Palin Appearance "Smoking Gun"

By ROBIN HINDERY
|  Wednesday, Oct 13, 2010  |  Updated 1:24 PM PDT
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A California lawmaker said Wednesday that a state university is breaking the law by failing to disclose correspondence about an upcoming fundraiser appearance by Sarah Palin.

Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, filed a public records request with California State University, Stanislaus last week. He requested any documents related to the former vice presidential candidate's scheduled June 25 speech to mark the university's 50th anniversary.

On Tuesday, the university's compliance officer, Gina Leguria, responded to Yee by saying there were no such documents.

Yee said he has evidence to the contrary. On Wednesday, he circulated an e-mail sent from a top university administrator to faculty and staff that he said should have been disclosed.

In the March 29 e-mail, Susana Gajic-Bruyea, vice president for university advancement, justifies the choice of Palin, who commands speaking fees as high as $100,000.

Gajic-Bruyea said the high-profile -- and controversial -- public figure would attract significant interest and boost attendance at the black-tie gala, whose tickets cost $500 each.

She stressed that the event, which is hosted by the nonprofit CSU Stanislaus Foundation, would be funded entirely by private donations.

"Not a cent of state funds will be used for this event," she wrote.

Yee said Gajic-Bruyea's e-mail is exactly the sort of document that should have been provided in response to his public records request. He has asked the state attorney general to investigate the matter.

"The university's claim of no documentation was inconceivable and now there is a smoking gun," he said Wednesday. "What other documents and correspondence are they hiding?"

The attorney general's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press.

University spokeswoman Eve Hightower said Wednesday that the fundraiser is a foundation event and that all public records requests are being referred to foundation board president Matt Swanson. She said she had no response to Yee's accusations related to Gajic-Bruyea's e-mail.

Yee has been seeking details of the compensation package provided to Palin in exchange for her appearance. The foundation has said its contract with Palin prevents it from revealing that information, but the lawmaker said no contract stipulation can override a state entity's public records obligations.

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