Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Bee Roasts Robert Klein as "Rogue Operator"

In some past years, The Sacramento Bee's editorials were often a tad bland. "On one hand," they said, but "on the other...."

Sunday's piece on the stem cell agency was far from that. The editorial likened stem cell chairman Robert Klein to the crazed officer in the Vietnam War movie "Apocalypse Now" and described him as a "rogue operator" and "czar."

The rhetorical heat was generally over Klein's conduct over the last six months, but more specifically about legislation to tighten controls over the agency.

The Bee said Klein, "has gradually been consolidating power. In recent weeks, Klein has installed his cohorts as state employees, hired and fired consultants without consulting his fellow board members, and basked in the adulation of patient activists who see him as their savior."

The editorial continued: "At a Senate committee hearing on Tuesday, a lobbyist named Eugene Erbin showed up and proceeded to criticize aspects of (Sen. Deborah) Ortiz's bill, saying he was representing the institute.

"Erbin's lobbying raised eyebrows for two reasons.

"One, the institute's oversight board hasn't yet discussed hiring its own contract lobbyist, much less Erbin, who works for the Sacramento firm of Nielsen, Merksamer, Parrinello, Mueller and Naylor, which represents several biomedical firms. That hiring - at $50,000 for five months -makes the institute one of the few state agencies with its own private lobbyist.

"Moreover, the oversight board hasn't yet publicly discussed its position on Ortiz's bill. Klein claims the board is holding open deliberations on all key policy. His actions in this situation suggest otherwise."

We should note that this blog first reported hiring of the lobbyist and the nature of the firm's contract May 5 in "The $10,000-a-month Stem Cell Lobbyist."

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