Editorial: Legislators Should Press Fight For UConn Foundation Transparency [Courant]

May 26, 2015

Courant Editorial

This past week the state Senate slapped down, 24-12, an amendment backed by Republican leader Len Fasano that would have made the University of Connecticut Foundation subject to the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

This vote to keep UConn’s fundraising arm in the shadows, away from public scrutiny, was just the latest in a string of defeats for advocates of open government. Two committees let similar proposals die earlier this session. The secrecy-loving foundation and its easily manipulated friends in the General Assembly can take another victory lap.

But Mr. Fasano and like-minded lawmakers of both political parties shouldn’t take no for an answer. They should continue to demand accountability from UConn’s successful fundraising arm. Courts in other states have ruled, according to the Student Press Law Center, that “foundations, no matter how they describe themselves, must comply with a state’s public disclosure laws.”

Even an 800-pound gorilla like the UConn Foundation should be available for public inspection.

Under current law, the foundation is not considered a public entity. But it receives $8 million a year in taxpayer money to help its fundraising operation. Its reason for existing is to promote the objectives of Connecticut’s flagship public university. If that doesn’t sound like a public entity, what does?

The foundation’s books should be open so that people can see how well it manages and spends its money and whether there are conflicts of interest in any of the donations.

We hope the foundation thrives. But making it transparent in its dealings is a fight worth waging.