Tuesday, February 03, 2009

CIRM's $200,000 Lobbyist Could Be at Work by Friday

The California stem cell agency is on a fast track to hire a $200,000 lobbyist to secure passage of a $10 billion biomedical industry aid package being promoted by CIRM Chairman Robert Klein.

If all goes according to plan, the lobbyist's firm will be on board by the end of this week. CIRM posted the RFP only last Wednesday with a deadline of today for proposals. The skimpy advance notice indicates that Kiein probably has a particular firm ready to come aboard.

The $10 billion proposal ballyhooed by Klein was on last week's CIRM board agenda. Klein told directors then that heavy duty lobbying is needed in Washington to help provide funds to the biomedical industry in California.

But he put off more detailed discussion of the matter until March. Klein's supporting material for the industry aid package presented to directors did not mention that he plans to hire the $20,000-a-month lobbyist for 10 months. Another RFP is also promised after that period.

The proposal to hire the lobbyist, which CIRM calls a "federal government relations consultant," seeks a high-powered firm with a track record of achievement, a "strong presence" in Washington as well as a San Francisco Bay Area representative to advise Klein and other CIRM leaders on short notice.

To provide some perspective on the CIRM lobbying proposal, the state of California currently has a lobbyist, Linda Ulrich, in Washington, who is financed through the governor's office. She is a state employee with a salary of $138,276. according to a Sacramento Bee database. The Washington lobbying office obviously has additional but unknown expenses beyond Ulrich's salary, such as benefits which could run close to 50 percent of her pay.

Any CIRM lobbying effort would be substantially bolstered by the election of the politically well-connected leader of the state Democratic Party, Art Torres, as vice chairman of the CIRM board. Indeed, a lobbyist might not be necessary with Torres working for CIRM. All he would require is some staff support. But with the lobbyist and Torres together, CIRM would have considerably more clout.

Also in the running for vice chair's job is Duane Roth, a current member of the CIRM board. Current scuttlebutt has it that the election will occur at the CIRM board in March in Sacramento. (Search on items labelled "vice chair" for more background on the contest.)

At last week's meeting, John M. Simpson, stem cell project director for Consumer Watchdog of Santa Monica, Ca., questioned the advisability of hiring a $200,000 lobbyist given CIRM's financial difficulties.

In response, Klein indicated no figure had been set for the contract.

Here is the language from the RFP:
"Expected Range for this Award is approximately $20,000 per month for the 10 months of the Agreement."
Simpson commented again on Monday about the lobbyist plan, Writing on his blog, he said,
"CIRM needs to ratchet back all discretionary spending.  Right now there is a request seeking proposals for a contract for a Washington lobbyist for up to $20,000 a month for 10 months. That's $200K.  And then there is still the proposal  to fund the International Stem Cell Research Committee meeting in San Francisco to the tune of $400K.

"My point is this: $100K here and $100K there and soon you're talking real money. CIRM simply doesn't have it, doesn't know where it's coming from and needs to stop spending on anything other than existing commitments until there is a clear way out of this crisis. Anything else runs the grave risk of simply digging the hole deeper."
Sphere: Related Content

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2:55 PM

    Why can't the biomedical industry use its own funds to lobby for federal support? Biomedical companies and academic institutions all have their own lobbyists. Why should California taxpayers subsidize them? Why should CIRM's public funds be used to solicit federal funds for other states?