California Embryonic Stem Cell Research Advocate Will Likely Head Panel

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 15, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

California Embryonic Stem Cell Research Advocate Will Likely Head Panel Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 15, 2004

Sacramento, CA ( — The man responsible for getting a measure using $6 billion in taxpayer funds for embryonic stem cell research and human cloning on the California ballot appears to have the nomination sewn up to head the oversight committee that will distribute the funds.

Treasurer Phil Angelides nominated real estate magnate Bob Kelin on Tuesday to lead the panel. Now, the state’s four leading elected officials are in unanimous agreement that he should be the one to head up the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

Klein, also an attorney, said last week he would be willing to serve for a while on the board before he gets back involved with his business ventures.

However, Marcy Darnovsky of the Center for Genetics and Society in Oakland, told the San Jose Mercury News that she is worried about a lack of accountability.

"It raises all sorts of questions about cronyism and ‘echo chamber’ relationships in a field that needs to have maximum public oversight and accountability,” Darnovsky said of Klein’s possible selection.

This isn’t the first time Klein has benefited from a legislative proposal he wrote. In the late 1990s, he served on a housing board created by legislation he wrote for California state lawmakers.

Robert Stern of the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles agreed with the concerns saying that appointing the person who wrote the ballot measure to head the funding committee is "unusual."

"You want to make sure he’s not biased. You’re talking about $3 billion of taxpayers’ money," Stern told the News.

He said he was concerned Klein would proceed too fast and not take time to make the best decisions possible. "For him, the motivation is personal. And he wants speed."

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger backed Klein for the committee’s top spot on Monday.

"Bob’s passion for pursuing and furthering stem-cell research . . . will serve not only this committee and institute well, but also the people of California who have the expectation that this effort will be overseen with integrity, accountability and best practices,” said Schwarzenegger in a statement.

State Controller Steve Westly and Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante also have nominated Klein for chairman.

The committee will hold its first meeting in San Francisco on Friday and its 27 members will vote on the new chairman and vice-chairman. Under the terms of Proposition 71, those are the only two members who will become full-time employees of the Institute.

Despite the political endorsements, some members of the board are decrying the fact that Klein is the sole candidate for the chairmanship.

The members of the committee have almost all been appointed.