Hillary Clinton’s April speech at the University of Connecticut is continuing to spark controversy, with two candidates for governor slamming the school for paying the former senator and secretary of state more than $250,000 for the 30-minute talk.
UConn officials say Clinton’s visit was hosted not by the university but by University of Connecticut Foundation, a private group. The program was funded by a grant from the Fusco family of New Haven, which underwrites speeches by scholars, authors and policymakers.
The UConn foundation, which has raised hundreds of millions of dollars from private donors for the school in recent years, operates largely in secret: the group is exempt from the state’s Freedom of Information laws.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley and independent candidate Jonathan Pelto both criticized the foundation.
“Misappropriating funds contributed for one purpose to another purpose is a violation of the trust contributors and students should have in the foundation board, the President of UCONN, and the Governor, all of whom have a fiduciary responsibility to protect the foundation’s assets,” Foley said.
“Diverting funds meant to benefit UCONN students to political purposes is a particularly egregious violation of the public trust,” Foley added. “If the foundation was used to launder money so the cost of Hillary’s speech is tax deductible to a sponsor that is an inappropriate use of the foundation, too. When I am governor, contributors to the UCONN Foundation, students, faculty, administrators, and alumni will rest better at night knowing the foundation isn’t being used as a slush-fund and tax-dodge by the governor and his political allies.”
Pelto, a longtime critic of the UConn foundation, said the university’s assertion that no tax dollars were used to fund the Clinton speech is misleading.
“In a long standing deal between the University of Connecticut and its foundation, UConn uses taxpayer and students funds so subsidize the foundation so that it will look more successful,” Pelto said. “This year approximately $9 million will be shifted from UConn’s taxpayer and student-funded Operating Fund to the foundation. To suggest that none of that money helped pay for Hillary Clinton’s fee and visit to UConn is simply wrong.”
“Although Connecticut taxpayers, students and their families are unaware of the deal between UConn and its foundation, more than $86 million in taxpayer and student tuition fees have been given to the UConn Foundation over the past decade. The money has been used to subsidize a variety of activities that shouldn’t utilize public funding such as a 5,000 square-foot house for UConn’s president in West Hartford (even though she has one in Storrs), Governor Malloy’s trip to Davos, Switzerland and China and the $251,000 for Hillary Clinton,” Pelto added.
“It is truly outrageous that UConn and its foundation would then divert scarce resources away from instructional costs to pay $251,000 for a speaker,” he added.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was among the Democratic politicians who attended the Clinton speech. A spokesman did not respond to a request seeking comment.