Donald Trump Jr. event through Kuehne Series raised less funds than UNT reported

Donald Trump Jr. event through Kuehne Series raised less funds than UNT reported

Donald Trump Jr. event through Kuehne Series raised less funds than UNT reported
December 07
00:56 2017

The UNT Kuehne Speaker Series earned a net total of $88,319 from the Donald Trump Jr. event hosted on Oct. 24, according to documents obtained by the North Texas Daily through a public records request.

However, that figure is 73.4 percent less than the $332,000 UNT publicized as the amount raised solely as a result of the Trump Jr. event. In a university-wide email sent on Nov. 29, a press release claimed the series had “raised a record $332,000” due to the Trump Jr. event.

UNT has also not been subtracting expenses for the Melissa Francis event scheduled for March 2018 in the announced $332,000 figure, but has included income from it.

More than four years since its conception, the Kuehne Speaker Series has contributed a total of $50,000 to offset scholarships, just over two percent of the roughly $2.2 million the Kuehne Series currently has at its disposal. The Kuehne Series gave its first contribution of $50,000 to offset scholarships this year.

The $2.2 million the series now possesses is divided between a fund which acts as an endowment containing lifetime member donations, and an operating account which receives all other donations and from which expenses are paid.

Since the series’ expenses come from donations going into the operating account, a large portion of them come from various UNT departments. For the 2016-2017 season, over a quarter of the total income came from various UNT departments, which buy tables in the form of sponsorships for either $5,000 or $10,000. The $1.6 million in the separate lifetime member endowment fund is invested to accrue interest.

“The lifetime membership funds are raised to support scholarships,” said UNT spokesperson Kelley Reese. “By investing those funds, the university earns more money in perpetuity rather than taking the money and distributing it one time.”

The $50,000 towards scholarships, which was given to the President’s Excellence fund this fall, came from the operating account. According to Reese, the endowment fund had $1.6 million available as of September 2017. The endowment fund has never been used for any other purpose than investment.

UNT officials did not comment on how the money was being invested in an email sent Wednesday.

The series has netted an average of $61,467 per event prior to this season, 30% less than the amount raised by the Trump Jr. event. Costs for the Trump Jr. speech came to a total of $249,680, more than triple the $76,743 event cost average for the series.

Where the money goes

The money raised from lifetime members’ donations to the series goes into “a fund which acts as an endowment,” Reese said. Though the fund, which was created in 2016, is called the “Lifetime Member Endowment Fund,” the fund is not an actual endowment, which means Kuehne Speaker Series board members are legally able to use the money for purposes other than simply investment. The board has invested $900,000 from the fund since early 2016 and earned $9,229.

The series is promoted as benefitting scholarships, and in the most recent statement from Nov. 29, it is referred to in a variety of ways: that it raises money through the endowment fund for scholarships, that the fund supports scholarships and that the fund gave money to offset the university’s investment in national merit scholarships.

In fact, the fund — which is not an endowment — made its first ever contribution to the President’s Excellence Fund in September in order to offset the university’s cost in supporting national merit scholars.

The money will benefit five of 55 national merit scholars currently enrolled at UNT, all of whom receive full-ride scholarships. Each four-year scholarship costs between $118,000 and $170,000, depending on residency.

Cost of attendance and exclusivity

The majority of students were not able to attend the Trump Jr. event because of the lack of individual tickets and the price per table, which were reserved for sponsors only.

“I’m frustrated with the idea that anybody that isn’t a sponsor isn’t allowed to go,” said Alexia Johnson, a public relations junior at UNT. “If it’s affiliated with UNT, why aren’t students and student organizations or news outlets able to be there to write about what’s taking place?”

Entry to the Kuehne Series event was only available as sponsorships, with the lowest cost being a $5,000 annual sponsorship for an eight-person table. Sponsors could also pay up to a maximum of $100,000, with various benefits for sponsoring the event. Premier-seating tables, invitations to a VIP breakfast with the featured speaker and VIP reception invitations including photos with the speaker were among the perks provided for more expensive sponsorships. There were also $10,000 and $20,000 sponsorship options.

“The Kuehne Speaker Series is not designed as a speaker series for students, it’s designed to raise money for student scholarships,” UNT spokesperson Deborah Leliaert said as previously reported by the North Texas Daily in October. “It is funded and attended by the donors and table sponsors.”

Event background and reception from students

The Kuehne series is named after UNT alumnus Ernie Kuehne and has a history of inviting conservative speakers. Other speakers include Charles Gasparino, senior correspondent for FOX Business Network, Andrea Tantaros, former co-host of “Outnumbered,” and “The Five,” on FOX and former mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani. FOX Business Network host Melissa Francis will be speaking in the Spring semester.

The initial outcry from the Trump Jr. event took place on social media when the Daily broke the news that he would be a speaker in the 2017 Kuehne Speaker Series. Current students and alumni alike were vocal about the decision, with some supporting it and others confused as to how or why Trump Jr. was selected to be a speaker in the series.

I think people from all points of view, including conservative speakers, should be invited to speak on campus to help spark a discussion,” said Daniela Ibarra, interim president for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. “Considering how diverse and liberal-leaning UNT’s student body is, I think most people saw Trump Jr’s invitation to speak at a UNT-related event was kind of a slap in the face. I think the announcement brought up a lot of the same feelings felt the days after the 2016 election — anger and resentment.”

Opposition from UNT Faculty and President

Students were not the only people who criticized the decision to have Donald Trump Jr. invited to speak as part of the Kuehne Speaker Series. In September, UNT faculty members signed an open letter denouncing the event and calling for the UNT Board of Regents to rescind Trump Jr’s invitation. The letter states Trump Jr. does not represent the values of UNT and the community.

Over 100 faculty members signed the letter.

Shortly before the event, The Dallas Morning News reported UNT President Neal Smatresk had opposed Trump Jr. based on emails they obtained via public information requests.

However, with only conservative speakers, the Kuehne Speaker Series has not yet cultivated the diverse facets that UNT has actively aimed to represent.

In the original invitation from the university, it was detailed Donald Trump Jr. would be allowed to have a VIP breakfast with “like-minded individuals,” as part of the paid sponsorships. These individuals would also be allowed to take photos and ask questions with Trump Jr., made up of mostly Kuehne Speaker Series Lifetime members.

Aside from the $100,000 cost to have Trump Jr. speak at the event, UNT paid $125,000 to host the event at AT&T Stadium. The university also paid $4,000 for hotel rooms and overnight parking, and $2,000 for Trump’s airfare. $1,000 was also used for security, although it was not made clear if secret service would be accommodated for as well. UNT spent nearly $250,000 on the event.

Lack of Media Access

Donald Trump Jr. addressed media, higher education and free speech during his speech, but no press passes were given to any media outlets for the event. Any coverage of the story came from media that were able to actually get into the event due to sponsoring.

A copy of the executed contract between the university and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani for the 2016-2017 season shows the contract permitted local media to report on the event but not to record audio.

“The Kuehne Speaker Series has historically been open only to the guests of table sponsors,” UNT spokesperson Kelley Reese said in an email to the Daily in October. “This year’s series events will be no different.”

Featured image: Donald Trump Jr. poses for a photo during an event through the Kuehne Speaker Series on Oct. 24 at AT&T Stadium. Sarah Sarder. 

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Sarah Sarder and Amir Gooden

Sarah Sarder and Amir Gooden

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12 Comments

  1. Trump supporter
    Trump supporter December 07, 09:21

    Please give up your Donald Trump Jr. bashing. That’s all it is, because you hate him and your bias shows through in your reporting. That is unprofessional. And I’ll say it again – The Kuehne Speaker Series is a PRIVATE event, and media are NOT entitled to be invited to it. Grow up and quit your whining, snowflake! If you are what the journalism school is producing, then I’m ashamed of the journalism school.

    Reply to this comment
    • David Riewe
      David Riewe December 07, 16:22

      What is biased in the facts about the profits reported here? Either the figures are correct or they are not.

      Reply to this comment
      • Trump supporter
        Trump supporter December 12, 10:34

        This was an event that cost more than other Kuehne events because of the location, which provided greater security than past locations for Kuehne events, and other security concerns – and security would not be as much of a concern if the snowflakes did more productive things with their time, stopped protesting every member of the First Family and just stayed away from events attended by the First Family. The reporter did not acknowledge the higher costs of this Kuehne event that cut into profit, and that is irresponsible journalism. The reporter also didn’t grasp the idea that members of the media are entitled to attend a fundraiser for free. The entitlement and self-centeredness of this generation is disgusting, and will result in them losing in the future because most Americans will no longer put up with their whining.

        Reply to this comment
    • Mars2001
      Mars2001 December 07, 23:57

      Sarah Sarder, keep doing what you are doing. You are appreciated. The majority of your readers understand that you’re basically uncovering facts that are a bit difficult to obtain and a little too inconvenient for a private speaker series touting that its existence is to fund scholarships. They appear to be holding Republican fundraisers, nothing more and nothing less. That’s fine, but call it what it is. It would have been so easy to do, but nowhere did you negatively characterize the fact that the series has only contributed a whopping $50,000 ONCE to anything actually going towards scholarships, a mere half of what they paid the most recent speaker. This person is obviously so thin-skinned and so invested in their identity – “Trump Supporter” – that they can’t handle being presented with the facts without taking it personally and lashing out at the messenger. Obviously they hold that trait in common with the president they love so much. The perfect irony is the hypocrisy of calling YOU a “snowflake”, accusing you of harboring hate and being biased, as they hatefully tell you to “grow up and quit whining”, all the while banging their widdle hands on their high chair. But this is typical. Most people who love Trump share seem to share many of his personality traits.
      “Trump Supporter” – glad you can still feel shame because you earned it with your hateful and inaccurate comments. This writer could have EASILY negatively characterized the facts she reported. She meticulously did not do so. Too bad you don’t realize that what you should be ashamed of is yourself.

      Reply to this comment
    • ChasT
      ChasT December 08, 14:19

      Snowflake? Just remember that in the winter of 1941 a bunch of “Snowflakes” defeated the Nazi invasion of Russia during WWII. We’re still around … just waiting for the next opportunity.

      Reply to this comment
    • good grief
      good grief December 08, 14:41

      Anyone who uses “snowflake” as a derogatory term is themselves a whiny Trump supporter who views facts as fake news.

      Reply to this comment
    • Mick
      Mick December 11, 12:16

      Sir, before you start calling someone a “Snowflake”, perhaps you get a grip on your own delicate emotions and, as you suggested to the journalist, grow up and learn to engage in a civil discussion.
      This is a straight reporting of the facts. And it is completely newsworthy to point out a fair portion of the UNT community believes Trump Jr. to not be representative of their values. I’m not quite sure why you feel so threatened by opposing opinions that you resort to name-calling (though I have an idea).
      As for the journalist the school of journalism is producing, I’m rather proud them. In this case, the school paper pointed out a misrepresentation by the school. Ms. Sarder and Mr. Gooden did not engage in hyperbole, did not editorialize, showed both sides of the story, the story is backed up with facts and documentation . . . all and all, much better news that we see on Fox. Great Job, guys!

      Reply to this comment
  2. Sean H
    Sean H December 07, 13:55

    UNT reported the Trump Jr. event hosted by the Kuehne Series was the highest grossing event to date, which is factually correct.

    It always sounds better to report your gross revenue compared to your profit because the gross revenue numbers tend to be so much bigger.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Ashamed UNT Alum
    Ashamed UNT Alum December 07, 23:07

    This whole Kuehne thing has been a fraudulent misuse of a governmental entity to advance a political agenda. Ernie Kuehne should be banned from any access to UNT, and his henchman, Brint Ryan, should resign from the UNT board of trustees.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Les
    Les December 08, 06:36

    “PRVIATE”?!That’s the whole point!: KSS is supposed to be a CHARITABLE activity, not a private tribal hate-bashing claque, or else lose its IRS status. False solicitation. Charities are supposed to net at LEAST 75% of proceeds for their charitable purpose (scholarships) or else be barred from donations (Charity Navigator rankings). NDT says <2%. And the reporter was completely professional and unbiased, stating both sides of the UNT claims and her excellent research into ACTUAL #s verified in documents, not speculation. (She COULD have added that the $175K of the Trump "donations" actually came siphoned from OTHER UNT accounts like The Bobwhite Quail- misapplication of funds, breach of fiduciary duty).
    So UNT itself actually LOST a bunch of money.
    I see no name-calling like your "snowflake" juvenile playground taunt, we've gotten disgusted with, nor reporting on Trump's scapegoating rant against feminists, underwater basket-weaving, liberals, etc. all dog-whistle bigotry enflaming our culture wars like Putin. NDT didn't produce cat-up-a-tree story or worse, echo the Two Party poison of the Koch Brothers or George Soros.
    This is outstanding journalism.
    /S/ Independent Journalist; no political or corporate affiliations, former Senate & White House official
    — now, who are you, the "snowflake monger?" You hiding in some private room, too? Name? Affiliations?

    Reply to this comment
  5. David Taffet
    David Taffet December 08, 06:59

    Excellent reporting. The president of UNT did his own bashing of journalists at the event as he introduced Trump Jr. and he owes you a huge apology. He ignored me when I called him out on it. Maybe he’ll answer a question from you on why he needed to insult his own school of journalism in his introduction.

    Reply to this comment
  6. ChasT
    ChasT December 08, 14:23

    “Snowflake”? Read some history … in the winter of 1942, a bunch of snowflakes defeated the Nazi invasion of Russia. We’ll be around if we’re needed.

    Reply to this comment

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