Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Merksamer Makes Only Bid For Stem Cell Agency Lobbying Contract

Only one of California's lobbying firms is interested in working for the California stem cell agency – at least interested enough to put in a bid.

However, that is likely more of a function of the small size of the contract – $65,000 – and the entrenched nature of CIRM's existing lobbyist – Nielsen, Merksamer, Parrinello, Gross & Leoni LLP – one of the state Capitol's larger lobbying firms with $5 million in billings last year.

The firm touted its longstanding connection to the $3 billion agency in its 21-page proposal in response to a CIRM RFA this spring. The firm has been with CIRM since 2005.

Nielsen Merksamer's proposal also noted a couple of other interesting aspects of the continuing arrangement. CIRM will run out of money for new grants in 2017, and Nielsen Merkasamer said,
“Furthermore, as a premier legislative advocacy and (Nielsen's italics) ballot measure law firm, Nielsen Merksamer can actively and effectively assist CIRM as it contemplates returning to the voters for additional funding.”
The proposal also suggested that it can conceal information that normally would be public record. The firm said,
“Another unique advantage offered by Nielsen Merksamer is that, unlike the vast majority of lobbying firms, since we are a full-service law firm, our relationships with our clients are subject to the attorney-client privilege.”
CIRM used such a technique in 2012 and 2008 in matters involving its budget and PR advice.

Nielsen Merksamer also said,
“(N)o one understands CIRM’s 'total picture' better than Nielsen Merksamer. Not only has Nielsen Merksamer been representing CIRM before the Legislature for the past decade, but Nielsen Merksamer was also one of the principal drafters of the aforementioned Proposition 71—which brought CIRM to life. The depth of Nielsen Merksamer’s familiarity with, and understanding of, CIRM’s mission and structure, the challenges it faces, and the promise it holds simply cannot be matched by any other legislative advocate.”
The firm said it would not need the $65,000 offered by CIRM but would charge only $49,200 annually, about the same as it has been paid for several years. Steve Merksamer and Gene Erbin, who drafted portions of Proposition 71, would handle most of CIRM's affairs. John Moffatt and Missy Johnson would also be available.

The firm's proposal outlined several instances where it successfully killed legislation opposed by CIRM. You can read about them in their proposal below.

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