Saturday, April 19, 2008

Klein Group Says It Does Not Lobby

The American for Cures Foundation, whose president, Robert Klein, is chairman of the $3 billion California stem cell agency, has taken issue with our description of it as a lobbying group.

Amy Daly, executive director of the group, says that it does not lobby and that the California Stem Cell Report is reporting inaccurately.

She sent along the following from co-executive director Constance McKee:
"At your(Daly's) request, I have carried out additional research on Mr. Jensen’s 'definition' that would include our work as a lobbying firm. We do not make representations directly to Congress or its committees, nor do we ask for or accept any fees on behalf of others to do so. We educate individuals as to science and issues, and suggest how they themselves can advocate for stem cell research..... I could find no legal or tax definition under which our activities could be accurately described as 'lobbying.'

"You might be interested in the Supreme Court’s narrow definition of lobbying. Clearly that is not what we do.

"'The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected congressional efforts to regulate grassroots communications as a form of 'lobbying,' on constitutional grounds. In 1953, in a suit involving a congressional resolution authorizing a committee to investigate 'all lobbying activities intended to influence, encourage, promote, or retard legislation,' the Supreme Court narrowly construed 'lobbying activities' to mean only 'direct' lobbying (which the Court described as 'representations made directly to the Congress, its members, or its committees'), and rejected a broader interpretation of 'lobbying' out of First Amendment concerns. [United States v. Rumely, 345 U.S. 41 (1953).]"
Americans for Cures is obviously relying on a narrow legal definition of the word lobbying. However, lobbying has broader meaning. Merriam Webster's Third Unabridged Dictionary notes that lobbying includes conducting "activities (as engaging in personal contacts or the dissemination of information) with the objective of influencing public officials."

The legal definition of lobbying is of great importance to Americans for Cures. Too much lobbying could lead to a loss of its nonprofit status, according to the Nonprofitexpert.com web site.

Nonetheless Americans for Cures makes it clear on its web site that its goals include influencing public policy, declaring that it seeks to help "encourage" decision-makers to fund stem cell research. Indeed, Daly appeared briefly before the CIRM Oversight Committee in January and addressed the question of how the committee should proceed in handling an attempt to overturn a negative decision on a grant application. The group's recent conference in San Francisco promised attendees that they would be taught how "key federal and state programs are funded, and what they can do to make their voices heard," including "specific actions" that advocates "can take to accelerate research and cures."

Some people thing that lobbying is pernicious. We do not. The problems with lobbying result from poor ethical practices, abuses related to power and money and the failure to consider all points of view. Citizens, businesses, nonprofit organizations and other groups can and should be deeply involved in the governmental process. The voices of all are needed in order to formulate the best laws, regulations and policies. Sphere: Related Content

2 comments:

  1. Dave,

    Perhaps Americans for Cures is best described as an "advocacy organization."

    Even so, I am among those who find it troubling that Bob Klein serves as both chairman of the ICOC that is a public agency making policy and as president of an organization that advocates what that policy should be.

    I know Bob is deeply committed to stem cell research and should be credited with have accomplished much with the California research program.

    Nonetheless, holding these two positions simultaneously is inappropriate. He should resign from one or the other.

    John M. Simpson
    Stem Cell Project Director
    Consumer Watchdog
    Formerly the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights

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  2. We should note that John is employed by an organization that is also involved in advocacy and lobbying, the Consumer Watchdog group. And as we have pointed out, there is nothing wrong with lobbying or advocacy, although there are legal restrictions involving nonprofit organizations and their lobbying activities.

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