Saturday, June 10, 2006

Klein and the Facts of The Matter

The anti-Ortiz letter from Robert Klein and the Americans for Stem Cell Therapies and Cures is part of a special genre. It is an advocacy document designed to arose supporters and stir outrage, just as documents produced during political campaigns are aimed at generating support for a particular candidate or issue. It is hard to hate a proposed statute. It is much easier to dislike a perceived enemy. While allowances can be made for rhetorical excess, Klein's letter has accuracy and distortion problems that should be addressed.

Let's speak to some of them as they come up in the letter. For example, it says Deborah Ortiz is interested in imposing "her own legislative controls." If SB401 becomes law, however, it will be only after the approval of both houses of the legislature, the governor and a vote of the people. If Klein can prevent Ortiz from receiving 21 votes for her bill in the State Senate, it is dead. That is a far cry from "her own" controls.

The letter states that Ortiz is on an "anti-research crusade." The fact is that she has been advocate of stem cell research well before the existence of CIRM.

Another Klein contention: "SB 401 ignores the single most important element in stem cell research: the patients and their families." If that is the case, such niceties as treatment of women egg donors should be given short shrift. Businesses promising quick cures should be given top priority and top dollar. We are certain that Klein would not stand for long behind that particular logic.

SB401 is "untimely," the letter states. The California stem cell agency has been in existence for nearly 18 months, but many of the issues involved with SB401 continue to fester. Members of the CIRM Oversight Committee themselves have noted that such things as intellectual property and research standards will continue to need to be addressed for some time to come.

Another excerpt: "The Ortiz legislation defies the will of the California electorate. The text of the initiative states clearly that CIRM was supposed to be legislatively protected for 3 years." What this argument fails to note is that if the people so "will, " any initiative may be amended by another vote of the people. What the Ortiz legislation would do, among other things, is ask the California people in 2007 to say whether they want tighter oversight over the agency they created in 2004.

Finally Klein asserts that CIRM is "already the gold standard in public accountability and transparency." The reality is another story. While the agency has improved in recent months, the background material for virtually all of its meetings is publicly released so late that interested parties do not have an opportunity to make plans to attend. Even members of the Oversight Committee have complained about not receiving the material in a timely fashion, and as recently as this spring. Even some of the smaller school districts in California do a better job in providing information in advance of their board meetings than does CIRM. Just last week, CIRM also refused to provide the complete identities of donors to its $1 million fundraiser and declined to specify the individual amounts they gave.

Text of the letter is below. Sphere: Related Content

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