Let’s start with this: Paying Hillary Clinton $250,000 for a 30-minute speech at UConn is obscene and indicative of what is wrong with UConn’s priorities. But if in fact, as critics allege, the shadowy UConn Foundation is converting taxpayers’ money for basically anything it chooses, the problem is much worse and needs immediate attention. “Malloy Foe and Status Quo Party” gubernatorial candidate Jonathan Pelto seems to be right on the money on this issue. Republican candidate Tom Foley is also jumping on the issue, although his response is a more rhetorical than factual.
Pelto contends that UConn has subsidized the foundation over the years with taxpayers’ and students’ money. Money is fungible so the foundation’s hands are not clean.
“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.” Right on, Jon.
It’s not the least bit persuasive that the $250,000 Mrs. Clinton got is justified because it was donated to her family’s global foundation.
Connecticut taxpayers would be right to question the UConn-UConn Foundation relationship especially when the school’s president is crying poor to the state legislature while raising tuition and fees.
“We are pretty much down to the bone,” Herbst told the legislature’s budget-writing committee back on February 24th. “We’ve made about as many cuts on the non-academic side as we can. We are going to have to start in the academic side, and it’s very, very worrisome. It’s dangerous.” This plea for financial help comes despite the $15 million infusion from the state the school will receive for fiscal 2014-15 to fund the “Next Generation” initiative.
There are other questionable fiscal practices of UConn’s including paying former basketball coach Jim Calhoun $1.5 million when he wasn’t even coaching the team and the new contract given to current coach Kevin Ollie that would pay him some $16 million over the 5-year length of the deal. That’s assuming the NBA doesn’t come calling.
Republican Tom Foley didn’t have the goods on the UConn-UConn Foundation relationship that Pelto did. The 2010 nominee resorted to incendiary words like “launder money” and “slush fund and tax dodge by the governor and his political allies.”
Both Pelto and Foley tried to pull Gov. Dannel Malloy into the fray but Malloy’s connection to all this is tenuous at best. Pelto points out the foundation paid for Malloy’s trip to Davos, Switzerland for an economic summit and a trade mission to China. Yet aren’t those the kind of things the foundation should pay for? Increasing the state’s economic vitality and opening trade routes for the state result in a more robust state economy which enables the state legislature to better fund its flagship university.