Daniels admits judgment error in think tank speech

Purdue University President Mitch Daniels admitted Thursday he made an error in judgment by delivering a paid speech at a fundraiser for a conservative Minnesota think tank after promising to avoid partisan politics while at the helm of the university.

In a public letter published online by the Journal & Courier, Daniels said his appearance in Minneapolis on Monday for The Center of the American Experiment belonged among the dozens of others he has turned down because the potential downsides outweighed the opportunity to promote Purdue.

"I conclude that better judgment would have been to decline," Indiana's former governor wrote.

Some Purdue faculty members have questioned the speech because Daniels has said repeatedly he would avoid partisan activities while Purdue's president.

"I accept the validity of the criticism and will try to avoid similar judgment errors in the future," Daniels wrote.

Daniels said his speech covered the themes of delivering basic services effectively, bringing people together across political lines, the importance of civility in public discourse, and "the centrality of social mobility and opportunity for the yet-to-haves in our society as goals of public policy."

"I would like to assure those concerned that I gave a scrupulously nonpartisan speech, as I had told the hosts was a requirement of my acceptance," he said.

Daniels hasn't disclosed how much he was paid at the request of organizers of the fundraiser. He said he'll use the honorarium to help fund scholarships that he and his wife, Cheri, are providing to Purdue students.

He said he complied with every rule of his contract as president and university policy.

Daniels traveled on a Purdue plane to Minneapolis for the speech and then to Newark, N.J., to take part Tuesday in NBC News' Education Nation panel in New York City.

The chairman of the Purdue Board of Trustees, Tom Spurgeon, said Daniels' use of the school plane was appropriate and Purdue benefits when he appears on news shows and at conferences and events.

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