Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Sacramento Bee: Curb Klein's 'Political Adventures'

"Nagging problems" persist at the California stem cell agency, including "political adventures" by its chairman, Robert Klein, The Sacramento Bee said today.

In an editorial, The Bee said that in addition to Klein's dabbling in politics, the problems include efforts by the biotech industry to weaken CIRM rules to generate revenue and affordable care and failure to disclose the economic interests of scientists who review applications for hundreds of millions of dollars in grants.

The Bee had some good things to say as well. CIRM is now "the nation's largest financier of embryonic stem cell research," which is what voters approved in 2004, newspaper said.

In its "memo" to CIRM, The Bee said:
"You've also hired a fine scientific staff to help administer grants and design a strategic plan. These employees will help your institute transition to new leadership, since President Zach Hall will be retiring in June and you are currently interviewing for his replacement."
But the newspaper said,
"Your board chairman, Robert Klein, continues to dabble in political adventures that don't comport with his responsibilities as a public official. Last year, he used a nonprofit organization to campaign against state Sen. Deborah Ortiz in her bid for secretary of state, after Ortiz had sought reforms in the stem cell institute. Klein's nonprofit also took sides in the lieutenant governor race. Rarely have we seen the head of a state agency create his own separate political apparatus to punish enemies and reward friends. These tactics have hurt the institute's standing and you need to put an end to them."
The editorial also said:
"So far, you've resisted public disclosure, claiming it could scare away qualified reviewers. Yet researchers make such disclosures all the time. As one of your reviewers, Rainer Storb, told The Scientist last year, such disclosures "are a bit of a nuisance. But I'm perfectly fine with things being made public."
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