UCSD gives Al Gore more than $100K lecture fee

4000 free tickets to public, airfare

— When ex-vice president Al Gore parachuted into town to give a speech at UCSD on May 21, many locals seemed starstruck. Four thousand free tickets to Gore's "multimedia lecture," based on his Inconvenient Truth, the documentary bemoaning global warming, were snapped up within hours of their availability at the UCSD box office. The cost, according to a UCSD website, was paid for by various arms of the public university itself, along with Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the San Diego Foundation. The Union-Tribune reported that Gore was paid $100,000 for his trouble, but a contract confirming that price also reveals that there was considerably more expense than just the lecture fee. Much of the additional cost involved the meticulous care and feeding of the former veep, who some say still harbors presidential ambitions.

"Sponsor shall provide the monetary equivalent of round trip air transportation at first class fare from Nashville, Tennessee or New York, or Vice President Gore's then current location, at Vice President Gore's discretion, to the place of engagement for Vice President Gore and one (1) additional individual," according to a contract between the university and the Harry Walker Agency, dated May 25. "If Vice President Gore provides his own roundtrip private air transportation to the engagement, the sponsor is responsible to reimburse the Harry Walker Agency, Inc. for the cost of what the commercial airfare for travel would have been." A handwritten annotation in the margin says, "Airfare $12,200."

The document continues, "If necessary, Sponsor will reimburse Agency for costs associated with airport expedition service. The expedition service will be employed by the Agency to coordinate Vice President Gore's airport arrival and departure at all airports during travel to and from Event." Of course, a chauffeured car was also necessary, but not just any old limo would do for the self-styled king of green. "The car will be a sedan, NOT an SUV. In addition, sponsor will make best effort to use [a] hybrid car for Vice-President Gore's transportation in the city of engagement."

As for the Gore party's room and board during the engagement here, which officially lasted only from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m., according to the contract's itinerary, "the Sponsor will also pay for first class hotel accommodations, for Vice President Gore plus one additional individual. The Sponsor will be responsible for meals, phone calls, and any other related expenses for Vice President Gore and one additional individual." For good measure the contract said, "the Sponsor will pay a $1,000 per diem per agenda day for Vice President Gore's Advisor for meals, phone calls, and any other related expenses." The word "Estancia" is written in the margin next to that passage, apparently referring to the ritzy Estancia La Jolla Hotel and Spa across from the university campus.

Judging by the contract, Gore didn't want to get too close to members of the Fourth Estate during his stay. Under the category "CLOSED PRESS," the agreement says, "a.) The press is not invited or permitted to cover the event unless express written permission is granted by the Harry Walker Agency, Inc. b.) There will be no press opportunities or availabilities, i.e., press conferences or statements, etc. c.) Vice President Gore will accept no interview requests." (Contents of the contract itself, according to another clause, were originally to be kept secret, but the university was forced by the state's public records act to make them public.) The document also reveals that Gore spent close-up face time with "50-100" local bigwigs at a 45-minute "private reception" held at Scripps Institution before the lecture.

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