UB Foundation paid Joe Biden $200,000 for October speech at UB, contract shows

Spectrum estimates undergraduate students paid $21,250 toward tickets through series sponsorship

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The UB Foundation paid former Vice President Joe Biden $200,000 for his October 2018 speech in Alumni Arena, according to documents The Spectrum obtained Monday through a Freedom of Information Law request. 

The payments, made to the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate’s booking agency Creative Arts Agency and Biden’s Delaware-based company CelticCapri Corp., came in two installments of $100,000, according to the documents. In July 2018, CelticCapri and UB Foundation Activities, Inc. agreed to the $200,000 contract for Biden’s appearance in the Distinguished Speakers Series, according to the documents. The documents show the private nonprofit UB Foundation paid Biden $190,000 for his speaking engagement and $10,000 for travel-related expenses. The UB Foundation acted as the series’ contracting organization.

The news comes just four months after the New York Times reported Biden received $200,000 — $150,000 for his appearance and $50,000 for travel — for a speech to the Republican-leaning Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan in October 2018.

Biden, during his October speech at UB, addressed optimism regarding the press, combating sexual assault and restoring democracy to the sold-out crowd of 6,500 attendees. The presidential candidate also touched on working class men and women’s concerns regarding America’s future along with signs of optimism in the U.S. such as its military, economy and research universities.

The series, hosted by University Events, is supported through a combination of ticket sales, “voluntary” student government-funded ticket purchases, university/community sponsors and the Donald L. Davis Lectureship Fund, according to UB’s website. UB does not use state funds, SUNY Research Foundation money, tuition money or “general gifts to the university or UB Foundation” toward the series, according to its website. The Spectrum cannot independently verify this as UBF is a private foundation and not subject to FOIL requests. 

Student governments, such as the Student Association, pay University Events to sponsor the series every year. This fall, SA paid University Events $127,500 to sponsor the 2018-19 series. The Spectrum estimates that undergraduate students paid SA $21,250 for the speech but could not confirm this since UBF draws funds from multiple sponsors, public and private, for the series and fees vary amongst all the series’ six speakers.

UB spokesperson John DellaContrada had no further comment about Biden’s UB visit but wrote, in an email, that UB’s website accurately reflects UB procedure for funding speakers. 

The $200,000 contract called for a 30-minute speech, a 45-minute moderated Q&A session, a book/poster signing, a photo opportunity, a meet and greet with “up to 16 attendees” and an interview with Spectrum reporters, according to the documents.

The contract details that “no signage or logos (company, sponsor, etc.)” be present and visible during the photo opportunity and that UB provide Biden with a teleprompter of his choice. The contract also details $10,000 for air and ground transportation, a “VIP hotel suite with a King bed” for Biden along with “meals and all reasonable incidentals” for him and travel companions.

Benjamin Blanchet is the engagement editor and can be reached at benjamin.blanchet@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @BenjaminUBSpec.

BENJAMIN BLANCHET


 Benjamin Blanchet is a graduate student and student journalist based in Buffalo, New York. Aside from The Spectrum, Blanchet has appeared in Brooklyn’s ARTSY Magazine and New York’s RESPECT. Magazine.