Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Stem Cell Agency's Lobbyist Now Ranked No. 1 in California

The $3 billion California stem cell agency likes to align itself with the very best science. And as of today it is also hooked up with the best lobbyist in California – at least based on earnings.

CIRM hires many firms to perform work, given its unusual needs, rather than building a large and relatively permanent staff. The tasks of the outside contractors range from publishing the annual report to grant review matters. Today Laurel Rosenhall of The Sacramento Bee reported that one of the firms that CIRM has hired now ranks as the No. 1 lobbyist in California, based on its earnings.

The firm of Nielsen, Merksamer, Parrinello, Gross & Leoni pulled down nearly $5 million during the first three quarters of this year. The firm knocked KP Public Affairs out of the top spot, which it had held for at least the last 10 years.

Nielsen has had a contract with CIRM since its earliest days in 2005, but it doesn't amount to much in the scope of Nielsen's business. According to the latest CIRM report on outside contracting, Nielsen was paid $79,984 during the fiscal year 2010-2011 for services that also extended into the current fiscal year. The report did not list payments for earlier years, but it is our recollection that Nielsen was paid about $50,000 every year since 2005. It is not known whether the firm continues to hold a contract for the current fiscal year.

One of Nielsen's partners, Gene Erbin, was one of the drafters of Prop. 71, the ballot initiative that created the California stem cell agency in 2004. Merck and Pfizer, in addition to CIRM, are among the firm's clients.

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