WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Some faculty members at Purdue University are
questioning whether Mitch Daniels violated his pledge to avoid partisan
politics as the school's president by deciding to speak at a fundraiser
for a conservative Minnesota think tank.
Daniels spoke Monday in Minneapolis before supporters of the Center of the
American Experiment, which promoted the speech as a review of the
Republican's eight years as Indiana governor.
The group promotes itself as backing right-to-work legislation, lower
taxes and doing "nothing less than shifting Minnesota's intellectual and
political center of gravity to the right."
Daniels' choice to speak at the fundraiser breaks the pledge of avoiding
partisan activities he made when accepting the Purdue presidency last
year, English and American studies professor Bill Mullen told the Journal
"There's no reason the president of Purdue should be out giving public
talks on lowering taxes in other states," Mullen said. "President Daniels
is still acting like a conservative Republican governor, just doing so
from the platform of the presidency of Purdue."
Shelley Triol, Purdue's assistant vice president for external relations,
said Daniels did nothing wrong with the speaking engagement.
"Mitch said he speaks to a lot of different groups," Triol said. "On this
occasion, he was asked to speak about Indiana's fiscal transformation."
The Center of the American Experiment event featured a $10,000 sponsorship
level called "Boilermakers Row," which included a private dinner and photo
opportunity with Daniels.
Triol said neither Daniels nor Purdue gave the center permission to name
the event's highest sponsorship level after the Purdue sports nickname.
"The president said that if the event organizers had asked him about
having a sponsorship level called Boilermakers Row, he would have told
them not to do it," Triol said. "He agrees with whomever questioned it."
Purdue Board of Trustees Chairman Tom Spurgeon said he felt confident that
Daniels, who was taking part Tuesday in NBC News' Education Nation panel
in New York, would make the right decisions about what speaking
engagements to accept.
"I just feel very confident that he is not going to take some unusual or
unique position other than the conservative positions he's had in the
past," Spurgeon said.