Saturday, November 29, 2014


The $300,000 speech

I was fascinated by this CBS News report on Hillary Cinton's arrangements for a speech at UCLA.  I'm not so bothered by the various little details, but the fee!  $300,000!

The story is more complicated than it might first appear, though.  The was to go to the Clinton Foundation (a charity), which is good, and it was taken from a foundation that supports UCLA (not the school itself).  Moreover, she was speaking at a fund-raising dinner for that UCLA foundation, which netted a lot of money from it.  So, in the end, she transferred money to one charity while raising a lot of money for another... and that's not so bad, right?

Amazing how the press has managed to not tell the whole story and make it seem like a grubbing act of extorting money from the university, instead of a charitable act of fund-raising.
Why would one charity transfer $300 G to another charity? If their missions are identical, what's the point? And if they are not, what is the justification for transferring assets of a charity created for designated purpose to another with different purposes? What are their purposes? Who controls these charities? Who is on the boards of each? Are their trustees compensated?

I wonder about these things as, with you, I am in wonder of the fee. Why do I doubt she will say anything of substance that has not already heard gratis?


According to its website the Clinton Foundation is a quarter of a billion dollar foundation devoted to a very broad range of good works.

The UCLA Foundation is a 2 billion plus foundation which with other private gifts supports of 93% the operations of UCLA.

The boards of each include many distinguished names, and there is no indication that any of them are compensated irregularly or that the boards interlock.

I suppose that if UCLA thinks speakers fees of $300 G to attract H.C will draw in to its coffers even more than that sum at one of its fundraisers-and it probably will-that's a business decision, and one that is its own business.

I withdraw my "Mmmm," except to the extent it includes wonder at the size of the fee. (I prefer the word "wonder" to "envy.")

This is all very common in the world of university fundraising -- known as "advancement."

Privately-funded lecture series are very common; the university of course does not lend its name to any such series that it does not approve of.

Most universities have a separate "foundation" that takes charge of fundraising. But in most ways, especially in the UC system, it's pretty much a convenience. Only at a couple of UCs do the foundations pay for their own operation (UCLA is one); most others take at least some subsidy from the school's budget though _not_ from any monies specifically ear-marked for education, and definitely not from any pot that student tuition goes into.

As for the speakers, they charge what they charge; it's very much show business. Press "outrage" is very much in the service of raising circulation. I note the ruckus a few years back when the foundation of California State University Stanislaus (a different system) invited Sarah Palin to speak at a banquet. I question their judgment; but it's a conservative ag area, their knew their audience, and they sold out the tickets.

You'll see more and more of this as public university budgets lag needs, and administrations scrabble for donations from whatever and whoever they can find. For good or ill; I think, more ill than good.

As you might gather, I know a little bit about this.

Jim Jones
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