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Regents defend controversial move to bring Hillary Clinton to Las Vegas

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Regents defend controversial move to bring Hillary Clinton to Las Vegas

By Michael Lopardi. CREATED Jun 30, 2014

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is returning to Las Vegas but not without some controversy.

Some students at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas are upset over Clinton's speaking fee for a school-related fundraising event while members of the state's board of regents are defending the decision.

"We're dishing out nearly a quarter million dollars to invite a speaker to our campus and that money could be spent in so many other, better ways for our university," said Elias Benjelloun, student body president.

Benjelloun said Clinton should speak for free and donate the money back to the fundraisers.

"I don't understand why the UNLV foundation hasn't try to cut out some sort of deal with Secretary Clinton," said Benjelloun.

Clinton is scheduled to speak at a fundraiser for the non-profit UNLV Foundation at the Bellagio Hotel in October. The reported speaking fee: $225,000. The university said the fee will be paid for with money raised privately through the school's foundation. While it's not student money, some UNLV students are not happy given a recent approval to hike tuition.

"As tuition has consistently gone up, we can't recklessly spend money - whether it's private or public - there's just no excuse," Benjelloun said.

The students have put their complaints in writing and plan to overnight a letter to the Clinton Foundation. 

The event is expected to generate about $425,000.

Some members of the Nevada Higher Education System's board of regents are defending the school foundation's decision.

"It's customary. It's routine. It's what universities do," said regent James Dean Leavitt. "They bring in high profile people to raise money."

Leavitt said the board did not have a say in the decision. However, he said Clinton's star power is expected to generate big donations which will likely benefit UNLV students.

"The foundation has a history of bringing in interesting people, high profile people," said Leavitt. "You need to sell out your event, that's what this is about."

Benjelloun said his push is not rooted in politics, noting Clinton has spoken at other schools for free.

"I hope she sees that this was just a booking mistake, gives the money back and still comes to UNLV and speaks to the UNLV foundation," Benjelloun said.

The university administration did not comment further on the matter on Monday, instead referring to a brief press release announcing the decision that was posted on Friday. The school said the speaking fee would go towards Clinton's foundation.

Action News reached out to the Clinton Foundation, who referred us to the booking agency. We placed a phone call to the agency but have not yet heard back.

Michael Lopardi

Michael Lopardi

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Michael Lopardi is the featured reporter of the You Ask. We Investigate. franchise at Action News.