The Basics: UConn Foundation transparency bill wins final passage
The state House of Representatives gave final passage Monday to a bill that will increase the information the University of Connecticut’s private fundraising arm must make public. The bill now heads to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s desk.
The UConn Foundation each year raises tens of millions of dollars for the state’s flagship public university, but where that money comes from and details about how it is spent are largely kept secret because of the foundation’s non-profit status and its blanket exemption from the state’s Freedom of Information Act.
Currently, the foundation publicly releases an annual report, which broadly describes the gifts it receives for different activities, such as scholarships, research or construction. It also provides a financial overview of spending, the size of its endowment and its operating budget. The school’s Board of Trustees is also regularly updated on how much the foundation has raised.
This bill would extend what must be regularly disclosed, including;
- Donor names, unless they have requested that their identity not be made public.
- A list of deanships, professorships, chairs, schools, institutes, centers or facilities that were named in recognition of foundation donors.
- The total number and average size of disbursements made to support student scholarships, fellowships and awards; programs and research; and facilities and construction.
- A list of each UConn employee whose salary or benefits the foundation contributes to.
UConn spends $7 million each year supporting its foundation; and in return that fundraising arm doles out about $40 million a year on things like student scholarships or sports complex construction.
Under the legislation, university funding would begin decreasing when the endowment reaches $500 million. When it reaches $1.25 billion, the university will be required to stop all funding.
The school’s endowment is just shy of $400 million currently.
The bill also makes it unlawful for the foundation “to engage in any financial transaction unrelated to accomplishing its charitable purpose.”
What does the bill not do?
The foundation is, by and large, still not subject to the state’s public disclosure laws.
How the foundation spends money to recruit and retain donors will not be released, and donors have the option to remain shielded from disclosure, as are any communications the organization does.
The UConn Foundation’s exemption from the state Freedom of Information Act has been a target of FOI advocates for several years. The foundation also took heat in recent years after a donor provided more than $200,000 to pay for Hillary Clinton to speak at the university. There also were public outcries over the foundation’s paying for out-of-state trips by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and a second home for the UConn president in Hartford.
After years of opposing bills to open the foundation to more disclosure, school officials supported this compromise bill this year.
“We believe this legislative compromise strikes the right balance – protecting those donors who wish to remain anonymous while also increasing the level of transparency and reporting required of our non-profit organization to an unprecedented level,” said UConn Foundation President Joshua R. Newton on Tuesday.
How they voted
The Senate passed the bill 27 to 8. See how each member voted by clicking here.
The House passed the bill 139 to 7.
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