Sunday, April 13, 2008

How Many Hats for Klein?

The Center for Genetics and Society is tackling Robert Klein and his "incompatible" roles as head of a $3 billion, state-of-California stem cell enterprise and his leadership of a private group that attempts to influence politicians and government leaders concerning stem cell research.

The conflicting roles are not new. They have existed since 2004 but have attracted almost no attention in the mainstream media. Klein (see photo) is both chairman of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (the state group) and president of Americans for Cures, which is headquartered in the office of his real estate investment business.

Writing on Biopolitical Times, the blog for the center, Jesse Reynolds, who has followed CIRM since its birth, says:
"Imagine the response if the appointed head of California’s Department of Transportation was also the leader of a highway-building advocacy group that issued statements praising the department head, attacked his or her political opponents, raised funds for allies, spread misinformation about the benefits of highways, and compiled arguments against mass transit and bicycling."
Reynold also writes:
"Not only is (Klein) juggling two incompatible roles - stem cell booster and public servant - but under his guidance, his advocacy organization has attacked his political opponents, praised his own work, and spread misleading information. "
Reynolds continues:
"After the ballot measure passed in November 2004, Klein tried to wear both hats, those of booster and of public servant. The initiative campaign transformed into the advocacy group California Research and Cures Coalition, which remained headed by Klein and operated out of his business office in Palo Alto. In response to public criticism, he quickly resigned from the organization.

"But Klein couldn't resist politicking for his cause. In 2006, a new group appeared, Americans for Stem Cell Therapies and Cures, with Klein again at the helm. Its first action was to issue a public letter smearing Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento) on the eve of her primary election for Secretary of State. She had been the most vocal supporter of the stem cell initiative in the state house, but was now backing legislation to reform the agency. As a taxable lobbying group, Klein's outfit raised also raised money for his political allies in the fall 2006 general election.

"Now, Americans for Stem Cell Therapies has assumed the mantle of both the California Research and Cures Coalition and Americans for Stem Cell Therapies and Cures. Two months ago, it issued a press release backing one of Klein's pet projects at the CIRM. What's more, it is extensively downplaying the potential of a new alternative to the use of embryos in stem cell research - an alternative whose ascendance would call into question the relevancy of CIRM and its use of taxpayer dollars during a time of budget crunching."
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