As politicians go, perhaps only Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and a number of former presidents can command the speaking fees it reportedly takes to land Sarah Palin, a Texas newspaper reported Sunday.
Looking into an appearance by Palin at a north Texas fundraiser, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram did some digging to add context to Palin's fees. Her appearance has created a controversy at CSU Stanislaus, where documents may have been shredded last week in an effort to hide fees paid to her for an upcoming appearance.
Attorney General (and Democratic gubernatorial candidate) Jerry Brown has since launched an investigation into the issue.
The newspaper's report came a day before state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, released a statement yesterday suggesting that the CSU Stanislaus Foundation, which was negotiating the Palin trip, may have arranged to pay for the appearance using public money.
Yee has been pressuring the university to make the speaking contract public. The university has said it financed the trip using private funds.
“The CSU administration has failed the students and the taxpayers of California,” Yee said in a statement. “Both ethically and legally, all documents regarding this foundation – including the Palin contract – should be public. It is unconscionable that the administration thinks they can spend millions of taxpayer dollars behind closed doors without any real transparency.”
It's not unusual for high-profile politicians to make a killing on the speaking circuit.
Back in 1989, Ronald Reagan faced harsh criticism for accepting $2 million to deliver two short speeches in Japan.
A few years ago, former President Bill Clinton was raking in $150,000 an appearance at the low end. Clinton traveled far and wide for his appearances, according to this nifty map by the Washington Post. He earned as much as $350,000 to keynote a motivational speaking conference in Toronto, in front of 8,500 business executives.
George W. Bush also reportedly pulled in $150,000 for a trip to Canada last year, along with the use of a private jet for him and three colleagues.
Even two-time presidential candidate John Edwards commanded $55,000 for a 2006 appearance at UC Davis.
At the time, Joe Martin, a spokesman for the university's Mondavi Center, explained the payments to the San Francisco Chronicle:
"As with any other performer, (the speaking fee) has to be negotiated, and there are a long list of considerations ... some of our speakers get more, and some get less," Martin said.