by Steven Ertelt
February 4, 2005
Sacramento, CA (LifeNews.com) — Despite concerns over conflict of interest and violations of the state’s open meetings laws, the agency set up by Proposition 71 to disperse grants to stem cell researchers fully expects to issue money by its self-imposed May target.
Bob Klein, chairman of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, pledges to issue the first grants by May at a Tuesday meeting of the group.
The committee is expected to limit the first round of grants to nonprofit groups and research universities because of the conflict of interest concerns that critics have brought forward. They say too many biotech firm leaders are members of the committee and that their companies stand to make an immense profit from the grants.
Another issue complicating the process is how Klein intends to be repaid the $1 million he loaned the campaign committee that proposed and lobbied for Prop. 71.
An Oakland public interest group told the Associated Press it is concerned that conflicts of interest will arise in the new committee paying back Klein.
"This raises the prospect of the head of a powerful state agency asking for money to reimburse his own campaign expenses from people who may desire grants from that agency," said Jesse Reynolds of the Center for Genetics and Society.
"It would be very easy for money and favors to mix in a way that is not in the best interests of the (stem cell agency), the people of California and Mr. Klein," he said.
Klein told AP he has no intention of soliciting donations to pay back the loan, which he called a "long-term obligation."
"I am making no efforts to raise any money to deal with my long-term debt with that committee," Klein told the Sacramento Bee. He indicated his loan may never be repaid.