CIRM said it does not plan to give private scientific briefings to large donors at the benefit, which will feature actress Julie Andrews, among others. It also will not accept donations from biotech or pharmaceutical companies.
Disclosure of CIRM's position was made today by the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. John M. Simpson, stem cell project director, said CIRM's position was clarified in a letter from CIRM President Zach Hall. Simpson said the letter was welcome news, although he said the involvement of Hall and the chair and vice chair of the agency as honorary chairs of the gala was still "troublesome."
Hall's letter to Simpson said,
"First, as I stated in my telephone call to you, there has never been at CIRM any discussion of, or knowledge of, 'private scientific briefings that...will involve senior CIRM staff' for top level donors. The first we heard of this was from your letters and press releases. Such private briefings by CIRM staff would be improper and we have not, and would not, consider such an arrangement. We ask that you acknowledge that this charge is incorrect and that you correct inaccurate information on your web site. My understanding from the organizers of the gala is that donors are to be invited to briefings and tours at UCSF and Stanford University."Simpson responded on the question of the involvement of CIRM staff:
"As I explained, representatives of the black-tie gala told me -- in writing via e-mail, copies of which are attached -- that CIRM scientific staff would provide the briefs to people buying tickets for $5,000 or $10,000."Hall's letter did not deal with the question of whether donations would be accepted from executives or other employees of biotech or pharmaceutical companies. We have asked CIRM about that practice and are awaiting a response. In political campaigns where corporate contributions are banned, numbers of executives from individual firms sometimes buy tickets to fundraisers. Companies have also formed political action committees to make contributions where direct corporate giving is barred.
Both FTCR and the California Stem Cell Report have called for disclosure of donor names. CIRM's decision to make the names public is a good one and in keeping with its pledges of transparency and openness. It is likely to disourage some persons from purchasing tickets, but CIRM's first responsibility is to maintain its credibility and avoid the appearance of impropriety.
CIRM's decision is one that would meet the standards of the British nanny, Mary Poppins, who was portrayed so famously by Julie Andrews.
Here is a link to Simpson's and Hall's letter.