The students say they found the documents in a trash bin and state Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) says they contain shocking information about the compensation Palin will receive for her speech at California State University Stanislaus, located in California's Central Valley near Modesto.
The outcry began when Yee asked for documents related to Sarah Palin's upcoming California visit. Cal State administrators said they didn't have any.
"This is our little Watergate here in the state of California," said Yee.
Palin is scheduled to speak at the Stanislaus campus in June to celebrate the school's 50th anniversary. It's a $500-per-plate fundraiser.
After getting a tip, the students went "Dumpster diving" outside the administration building last week.
"We knew something was not right. They were there on a Furlough Friday, and it was shredding of documents," said Stanislaus student Ashli Briggs.
"We ended up finding pages four through nine of the Sarah Palin contract that our school said that they didn't have," said Stanislaus student Alicia Lewis.
Those pages do not specifically name Palin.
The terms include:
- First-class plane tickets for two from her home state of Alaska
- A Learjet 60 or bigger, if event organizers want to use a private plane instead
- A one-bedroom suite, plus two rooms in deluxe accommodations
- Bottled water with "bendable straws" at the podium
The CSU Stanislaus Foundation, which does not use taxpayer money, refuses to say how much it's paying Palin, though her typical appearance fee is $100,000.
"We believe, at this time, that it is not our requirement legally to produce these documents," said Matt Swanson, CSU Stanislaus Foundation president.
It's not unprecedented for Cal State or University of California campuses to spend big bucks on high-profile speakers.
The Stanislaus Foundation paid retired General Norman Schwarzkopf $90,000 to speak in 2002.
UC Merced partly relied on foundations last year to pay for the million-dollar security tab for First Lady Michelle Obama's commencement speech. She did not take a fee.
Yee insists his push for more open records at public university foundations is not motivated because Palin is a polarizing Republican, but critics are not so sure.
"It's purely political, and I understand why, because the name Sarah Palin draws a lot of attention," said Swanson.
The last several months have been very lucrative for Palin. She's estimated to have made more than $12 million since resigning as Alaska's governor in July 2009. Her former salary was $125,000 per year.