When California State University, Stanislaus announced back in March that former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin would be the keynote speaker at a school fundraiser this summer, many members of the school community were annoyed. It wasn’t just that the Republican was such a divisive figure; she also didn’t really have any connection to the school or even the state.

But the school went ahead with the event anyway. According to an article by Patty Guerra in the Merced Sun-Star:

In a 34-minute speech, she [discussed civic education, freedom of speech and] poked fun at controversy sparked by the March announcement she would appear at the public school and the outcry over her confidential contract, a portion of which students said they found in a university Dumpster.

“Do I have my straws?” she said, referring to her contract with the school’s nonprofit foundation [which reportedly demanded bendable straws]. She said that she felt sorry for the Washington Speakers Bureau, which on her behalf negotiated “with the entire state of California.”

According to “sources who have seen Palin’s contract but who were not authorized to speak about it publicly” Palin was paid some $75,000 plus expenses to speak at the fundraiser. This prompted California’s attorney general, Jerry Brown, to launch an investigation into the campus foundation that organized the fundraiser and hired Palin to speak.

As the top law enforcement official in California, it’s entirely appropriate for Brown to investigate whatever he wants. That being said, Palin wasn’t the school’s graduation speaker; she was there to raise money, which she apparently did very well.

Tickets to the gala dinner, which celebrated the university’s 50th anniversary, cost $500 a person. Each guest received a signed copy of Palin’s autobiography, Going Rogue. While she appears to have rasied a great deal of money for, well, Sarah Palin, the event was also quite lucrative for the school. The Palin event resulted in $200,000 for the CSU Stanislaus. The money “will be used to support university programming,” according a school press release.

That’s not only more money than schools generally raise at a single event, it’s actually more money than CSU Stanislaus has ever raised at an event.

Due to declining state funding, California State University campuses have been struggling to raise money over the past decade.

Jerry Brown is currently running for governor of California. If he really wants California’s public colleges to stop bringing in controversial speakers like Palin to help them raise money, it’s worth thinking about trying to find more state money for these schools. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer