California Stem Cell Research Cmte Prez Criticized on Endorsement

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 8, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

California Stem Cell Research Cmte Prez Criticized on Endorsement Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 8, 2006

Sacramento, CA ( — Robert Klein, the chairman of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, has gotten in trouble with the stem cell research committee for endorsing a candidate in Tuesday’s Democratic primary for secretary of state. Klein backed a candidate running against state Sen. Deborah Ortiz, who has led legislative efforts to regulate the committee’s efforts.

Klein’s endorsement of state Sen. Debra Bowen, who won the primary, is seen by some as retribution against Ortiz. He’s coming under fire because of it.

The day before the primary, Klein send a scathing letter to medical leaders across the state tell them to vote against Ortiz and accusing her of spearheading an “anti-research crusade.” The letter praised Bowen’s efforts to help the stem cell committee.

John Simpson, of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, told the San Diego Union Tribune newspaper, "This is certainly not something that is appropriate for the chairman of the (institute’s board) to be cranking out."

Klein has the legal right to campaign for candidates he supports, but Simpson said most state residents identify him in association with CIRM and said Klein should stay out of the political limelight as a result.

CIRM board member Jeff Sheehy agreed and told the Union Tribune that Klein’s letter “doesn’t pass the smell test.”

“The larger question here is the appropriateness of the chair of a state agency, especially a man who has been very insistent on having operational responsibilities of the institute, having his own political action committee,” Sheehy said. “It just doesn’t seem appropriate to me.”

But, Klein told the San Diego newspaper that he didn’t send the letter to campaign against Ortiz but to oppose SB 401, a measure she sponsored. He claims the bill will impose “crippling restrictions” on embryonic stem cell research that he wants the committee to fund.

Klein claimed the letter did not represent the views of the stem cell committee.

The newspaper reports Klein sent the letter as the chairman of Americans for Stem Cell Therapies and Cures, a stem cell research lobbying group Klein operates out of his office. The group was the fundraising machine for Proposition 71, which set up the committee to spend billions on human cloning and embryonic stem cell research.

The group changed its name to be able to help other states put together similar ballot initiatives.

Sheehy told the newspaper he thought Klein had stepped down from the lobbying group after accepting the position as the head of the stem cell research committee.

“I feel like I’ve been lied to, like there’s been a bait and switch,” he said.