OREM Nothing in life is free, including Sean Hannity.
Though the conservative talk show host waived his $100,000 speaking fee to speak at Utah Valley State College Monday night, his travel expenses rival the total cost of bringing "Fahrenheit 9/11" director Michael Moore to the Orem campus Oct. 20, documents obtained by the Deseret Morning News reveal.
According to a travel invoice sent to the state school from Premiere Speakers Bureau, UVSC was billed $35,000 for private Hawker jet service, which shuttled Hannity from New York to Utah and on to Arizona, where he'll broadcast his show during tonight's presidential debate there. His return flight is also being covered by the college.
The total cost of the three-legged trip is actually around $50,000, but GOP gubernatorial candidate Jon Huntsman Jr. donated $10,000 and another Utah corporation offered $5,000 to help offset the expenses, UVSC spokesman Derek Hall confirmed.
Once tickets sales are factored in an estimated $35,000 was generated from general admission ticket sales, Hall said the UVSC student government actually made $150 on the event.
However, the college also forked out $9,000 for heightened security at the sold-out event, bringing the final price tag to roughly $8,900.
But Hannity wasn't worried about that figure, Hall said.
"I think (Hannity's) agent requested a letter from us stating that the travel costs were not coming from student fees," Hall said. "It's something he's made a big deal about on his radio show. He's repeatedly said, 'I don't want any student fees going towards my travel.' "
Compared to Moore's travel expenses $10,500 for an entourage of 11 Hannity's costs look excessive.
But Hannity told the Deseret Morning News that the sheer distance covered by his travels, not additional posh requests, upped the price.
"Private planes are expensive. The fuel is expensive," Hannity said. "I have two jobs so I do charter planes sometimes on my own, and I know what they cost. But (UVSC officials) said they wanted me to come and they wanted to pay my travel. And I wanted to be there to meet the students."
Hall confirmed the student government agreed to pay Hannity's travel costs, even after Huntsman's offer to send his private plane to fetch Hannity didn't fit the talk show host's schedule.
But rumors that Hannity canceled a Washington University appearance, where he also planned to counter an upcoming Moore speech, because he wasn't pleased with several private jets offered by a donor did make UVSC officials nervous, Hall said. Hannity has said safety concerns prompted that cancelation.
"We did not have a speaking contract with Hannity, so we were just very careful on how all of the negotiations went," Hall said.
"We were just being very careful. We wanted the event to happen. It was very important to us. And we think it went very well."
Snagging Hannity to speak was worth his travel costs, said student body vice president Joe Vogel, who sparked controversy when he agreed to pay $40,000 of student fees to have Moore speak.
But the brouhaha over the liberal filmmaker's appearance in notoriously conservative Utah Valley ultimately prompted Hannity to speak at the state school in an attempt to provide an opposing viewpoint before the Nov. 2 general election.
"Even though (Hannity's) traveling costs were a lot, I think it was really nice of him to come out," Vogel said. "It ended up being a benefit to our school financially."
In the end the costs for the two speakers only differ by about $11,000, with Hannity being less expensive thanks to his waiver of the speaking fee and lighter security needs.Comment on this story
While Hannity's visit generated $15,000 in donor contributions, Moore has generated just $1,500 from local donors leaving UVSC with a $25,000 bill to pay, as opposed to Hannity's $8,900 tab.
No one in UVSC's government is complaining, however.
After ticket sales and donations are factored in, the student government only had to pay $34,000 to get two major political pundits to speak on campus, Vogel pointed out.
That leaves $16,000 in the speakers series budget for the remainder of the school year.
So who's going to follow Moore?"We're going to get through this, and then we'll make plans," Vogel said. "One down, one to go."