Monday, January 22, 2007

CIRM Surfaces in Lobbying Article

The California stem cell agency popped up in a recent piece in the Harvard Political Review discussing lobbying in Washington, D.C., particularly that of Big Pharma.

The article noted that as of 2004 the pharmaceutical industry employed nearly 1,300 lobbyists in Washington, D.C., about twice the number of elected officials in the House and Senate. Of course, those lobbyists are vastly outnumbered by regulators. The piece also noted that Pharma spent $128 million in 2004 to push for tax breaks. That was about four times the amount spent that year on behalf of Prop. 71, which created the stem cell agency in California.

Stem cell research, the article said, has "arguably caused the greatest controversy." That where the article's authors, Alex Lavoie and Richard Kelley, brought in CIRM.

"Dale Carleson (sic), chief communications officer for the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, said in an interview with that HPR that “a change in federal policy severely limits stem cell research,” giving scientists a strong incentive to try to influence the policy-making process. Carleson’s California Institute of Regenerative Medicine is the state government agency responsible for managing the three billion dollar investment in stem cell research, a result of Proposition 71, passed by the California Legislature in 2004 after heavy lobbying from interest groups. Government funding is, according to Carleson, “essential, especially to basic and preclinical research. Between the government and private foundations, most of them devoted to a specific disease, that’s the life blood of stem cell research.” Without funding from the government, stem cell research would suffer greatly, and without information and encouragement from lobbyists, the government might never support research in the first place."

The article went on to point out the cost of lobbying is prohibitively expensive for many groups, meaning a tilt towards those who can pay to be heard. At the same time, the piece said, that it is hard for lawmakers to separate the national interest from constituent interest from industry interest, which, we should note, can overlap significantly. "Unbiased advice is hard to come by," the article said.

CIRM has not yet really felt the impact of lobbying. At our last check, no lobbyists had been registered in Sacramento as attempting to influence the agency. A few firms and associations have spoken out on some issues, particularly IP. But that is likely to change as the coffers open wider at the stem cell agency.

(Editor's note: As most of you know, the Harvard item erred when it said the California agency was created by the legislature. It was created by a ballot measure that carried language that virtually immunized the agency from legislative influence.)

1 comment:

  1. Of recent news mentioning CIRM, see the recent piece by WARF, discussed at

    Lawrence B. Ebert