WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A Purdue University spokeswoman confirmed that school President Mitch Daniels was paid for a speech at a conservative Minnesota think tank’s fundraiser, which some believe broke his pledge to avoid partisan politics.
The amount that the former Indiana governor was paid for Monday’s speech isn’t being disclosed at the request of event organizers for The Center of the American Experiment, Purdue spokeswoman Shelley Triol told the Journal & Courier (http://on.jconline.com/17mVMTj). She said Daniels isn’t required to disclose what he is paid for such events.
Daniels traveled on a Purdue plane to Minneapolis for the speech and then to Newark, N.J., to take part Tuesday in NBC News’ Education Nation panel in New York City.
The chairman of the Purdue Board of Trustees, Tom Spurgeon, said Daniels’ use of the school plane was appropriate and that it’s beneficial to Purdue for him to appear on news shows and speak at conferences and events.
“His schedule is so full that it’s not practical for him to have all kinds of transportation problems in getting to some place and returning,” Spurgeon said. “Typically, he will do something and he is right back on the job in representing his activities as Purdue president.”
Some Purdue faculty members questioned Daniels giving the Minnesota speech since he has said repeatedly that he would avoid partisan activities since accepting the Purdue presidency last year after a push by some Republicans for him to seek the GOP’s presidential nomination.
Judy Nadler, a senior fellow in government ethics at Santa Clara University, said the fact that Daniels was paid to speak at the event, which named its $10,000 sponsorship level “Boilermakers Row,” raises red flags.
“The honor and responsibility of being a university president is why people would be seeking to have you share your thoughts and wisdom,” Nadler said. “Is this particular incident an indication he has crossed that line and he is now engaging in politics in a different kind of way? That was what struck me.”
Daniels’ 10-page employment contract doesn’t include rules for paid speaking events, but Spurgeon said Daniels is to use his personal time and pay his own expenses for such activities.
“I did not hear his talk (Monday), and I haven’t seen a script or anything, but every single time he speaks, he puts in a commercial for Purdue and finds a way to tie that in to what he’s talking about,” Spurgeon said. “We feel good about it from that aspect.”