Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Canadian Citizenship Question – Day Four, an Answer!

The requirement that the chairman of the California stem cell agency be a citizen of California is unconstitutional according to a 1978 opinion by the state attorney general.

That's what James Harrison, outside counsel for CIRM, told the California Stem Cell Report early today. He was responding to an email query yesterday concerning the reason that Alan Bernstein, a Canadian, was scrubbed as CIRM Chairman Robert Klein's favorite candidate to succeed him in the position. Official opinions of the attorney general are widely regarded to have the force of law. The way the attorney general's Web site puts it is,
“The formal legal opinions of the Attorney General have been accorded 'great respect' and 'great weight' by the courts."
Here is what Harrison had to say,
“We discovered the citizenship issue when Bernstein's name was mentioned as a candidate. Given the litigation CIRM has faced over the years, there was a need to be cautious and there was not sufficient time to obtain closure on this issue before the deadline for nominations. You should know that there is an AG opinion from 1978 declaring that the citizenship requirement is unconstitutional.”
As far as we can tell the first public mention of Bernstein's name as a candidate came on Nov. 29 on the California Stem Cell Report. However, his name was being bandied about privately well before that. Late on Dec. 2, Klein released a statement that Bernstein was no longer being considered because of “a technical legal requirement regarding citizenship.”

Klein's statement followed stories in the media (see here, here and here) involving closed-door meetings and concerns about conflicts of interest in connection with his attempts to engineer selection of his successor. The ostensible citizenship condition also led to a well-read story in the Toronto Globe and Mail in which scientists in Canada deplored the requirement.

Harrison's response today about the matter came four days after we asked CIRM's official spokesman to provide the exact legal language concerning what Klein said was a citizenship problem.

We still have questions about whether the citizenship question applies to CIRM President Alan Trounson, an Australian, as well as the actual date when CIRM officials became aware there might be an issue with Bernstein.

Our assessment of the situation? Klein's statement was specious, at best. At worst, it might be called something else. It appears to be a dubious effort to paper over what is serious leadership issue involving Klein and raises significant questions about his credibility. Sphere: Related Content


  1. Why cannot CIRM have transparency? CIRM board of directors use grant preselection button to disqualify California stem cell scientist’s grants for human embryonic stem cell research and therapy, while hold meetings exclusively for their own institutions. As a result, members of their own institutions would mysteriously receive grants for non-human stem cell research or therapy for stunning high scores. For example, CIRM Board Directors Floyd Bloom (Scripps) and Duane Roth (UC connect) held meetings for members of their own institution. Salk’s viral professor Inder Verma would end up receiving ~ 5 millions from CIRM, who openly said that he did not even know what to do with the money, let us wonder why he wrote the grant at the first place. Out of the State cancer development professor Wechsler-Reya would receive ~ 6 millions leadership award to move to California. Let us wonder what kind of leadership he is going to provide to California’s human embryonic stem cell research for a person who has never done any stem cell research, and how many internal deals were made with State’s stem cell bond initiative.

  2. Anonymous9:01 AM

    I'd like to see CIRM's legal bills for the past month and the next three months. Their lawyers must be working 24/7 to clean up the mess of Klein's shenanigans. What a fiasco.

  3. Anonymous4:53 PM

    I commented earlier this morning, then retracted it. I would like my comment, submitted at that time, published. Thank you!

  4. For anonymous, I cannot resurrect your item. I posted your comment shortly after you wrote it. After you requested that it be retracted, I had to delete it permanently because of technical restrictions on how comments are handled from the host of this blog. Please reconstruct it and send it along. Thank you.

  5. Anonymous5:09 PM


    In short, hiring Alan Trounson the Australian resulted in the State generating an additional paycheck, while hiring Bernstein the Canadian would mean that Klein would LOSE his state paycheck.

    How is it or why is it that Klein is the mouthpiece or more (as the facts may be) to say Bernstein was disqualified on the citizenship issue?

    Am I the only one who detects a possible conflict of interest here?