Californians Aware sues to obtain Sarah Palin speech records

An open government group filed a lawsuit today to try get records about Sarah Palin's upcoming speech at California State University, Stanislaus.

The lawsuit filed by Californians Aware against Cal State Stanislaus asks for a court order requiring the university to disclose records it sought, including information about how much the former Alaska governor is being paid to appear at the school's 50th anniversary celebration in June. The group is also asking the court to declare that the university violated the California Public Records Act in denying it had such records in response to earlier requests by Californians Aware.

"The university was given every opportunity to disclose the records before this suit was filed," Kelly Aviles, an attorney for Californians Aware, said in a statement. "Unfortunately, university administrators chose to deny the existence of those records."

The lawsuit is the latest turn in a controversy that has been brewing since late last month when the nonprofit foundation affiliated with Cal State Stanislaus announced it was throwing a $500-a-ticket fundraiser featuring the former Republican vice presidential candidate.

Critics have been trying to find out how much the foundation is paying Palin, while foundation officials say they do not have to make the information public because the foundation is a private organization. Californians Aware contends the foundation is not really a separate entity from the public university.

Hamid Shirvani, the president of Cal State Stanislaus and the head of the foundation's board of directors, said the event has the potential to net $200,000 for his school.

Shirvani said he believes the flap comes down to ideological disagreements. Democrats who oppose Palin's politics don't want her to come speak at the university, he said.

"This is about keeping Governor Palin away from our campus," Shirvani said Thursday in an interview with The Bee. "It's not about the (speaking) fee. It's about keeping Sarah Palin away."