Monday, May 16, 2005

Robert Klein, Rube Mayors and Arrogrance

Los Angeles Times business columnist Michael Hiltzik began his piece on the California stem cell agency by saying it was the "offspring of perhaps the most misleading initiative campaign of 2004.

That was just the warm-up. The agency has "behaved not like the state agency it is, but with the arrogance of a private corporation that happens to be playing with the taxpayers' cash," he wrote.

It dangled "a theme park project (the stem cell HQ) in front of a bunch of rube mayors." And the agency's reaction to lawsuits is "overwrought."

Hiltzik attributes much of the "mess" to Robert Klein, chairman of the agency.

"The agency's attitude reflects the personality of its chairman, the Bay Area real estate developer Robert Klein II, who supervised the drafting of Proposition 71 and spearheaded the electoral campaign. Klein often seems to assume that anyone who criticizes himself or his agency must be fanatically hostile to embryonic stem cell research, or worse.

"Here's how he characterized the lawsuits during a board meeting last month: 'It is very clear that the people filing the litigation do not respect the democratic process and the mandate of 7 million voters. It is important, if they won't respect the democratic process, that they at least respect the suffering of over half of all California families who have a member' who might benefit from stem cell research.

"He's talking about litigants who, following all legal niceties, presented a legitimate petition to the California Supreme Court. Evidently judicial review has no place in Klein's world: The actions of voters, even if they might be based on misinformation and contradict the state Constitution, trump the principle of checks and balances. Who's really disrespecting the democratic process here, Mr. Klein?"

Hiltzik said he intended to put this question directly to Klein, "but at the last minute he canceled our scheduled interview."

While this blog can't say it concurs with everything Hiltzik has to say, it was a mistake for Klein not to talk to him. The Los Angeles Times has more than 900,000 subscribers. Typically newspapers have about two readers or so for each subscriber, making a total readership of something like 1.8 million. Most do not read the business page but let's say about 35 percent do, which is probably low. That means roughly 500,000 business page readers, who are the demographic cream, did not hear Klein's rebuttal to Hiltzik. Sphere: Related Content

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