Last week, the California Senate voted 36-1 in favor of legislation to make the fundraising arms of state universities subject to public records laws. Senate Bill 8, which would expand the authority of the California Public Records Act on the state’s college campuses, is heading to Gov. Jerry Brown for consideration. Brown’s predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, twice vetoed similar measures to change the rules for university foundations, which are set up as separate units to raise money for public universities. Democrat, Sen. Leland Yee hopes the third time will be a charm!
As it stands, private organizations that support public universities are now exempt from having to disclose much of the information that public agencies usually make public.
The University of California and California State University, which said many donors did not want to have their identities revealed, opposed Yee’s two previous bills, however, decided to drop their opposition to the current bill after Yee agreed to amend it to protect the anonymity of some donors.
The Bill made national headlines last year when California State University at Stanislaus declined to report how much it had paid Sarah Palin to speak at a fund-raising event.
Yee and open-records advocates have long sought to bring state university foundations under California’s sunshine laws which would call for greater financial transparency at campuses’ foundations.
The measure would allow public examination of the financial records, contracts, and correspondences of state schools’ private “auxiliary” groups. Donors would be identified only if they receive gifts or services from the institutions worth $2,500 or more–up from $500 in past versions of the bill–or won a no-bid contract within five years of giving.