Adams Center Director Mary Muse at the University of Montana found herself answering continued questions this week about a controversial fundraising effort to secure $75,000 for the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
University fundraising efforts are typically carried out by the UM Foundation. But the foundation’s mission is to raise money for the university, and not outside charities.
For the Elton John effort, Muse says she led a team of four university employees who don’t work for the foundation. The arrangement “is unusual,” says a source with extensive knowledge of university practices. “Typically, state supported institutions are not grant-making organizations,” the source said, adding that university staffers usually don’t raise money for a charity that has no connection to the university, to Missoula, or to Montana.
The fundraising team, according to Muse, includes UM Administration and Finance Vice President Bob Duringer, UM Executive Vice President Jim Foley, UM Relations Director Rita Munzenrider, and ASUM President Dustin Leftridge.
The fundraising for John’s foundation, which was initially kept secret, started shortly after the pop star’s sold-out concert at the Adams Center last September. A memorandum spelling out the details of the arrangement was unsuccessfully requested by the Missoulian but eventually obtained by the UM student newspaper, the Kaimin.
According to subsequent stories in the Kaimin, the memo—which has since been released—lays out a deal in which UM gives $75,000 to John’s charity to help bring back the singer for a much-sought encore show April 11. Tickets for John’s first show sold out online, shutting out scores of local residents who tried to snag them at the box office.
With ASUM planning to raise about $800—by holding a Mario Kart 64 tournament—that leaves the rest of the team to secure $74,200. Muse won’t say how much they’ve already raised, putting the figure somewhere between 50 and 80 percent.
UM President George Dennison’s office would not comment on the issue.