Wednesday, February 12, 2020

New California Stem Cell Ballot Initiative Hits $1 Million Campaign Spending Mark; Tens of Millions More Needed

The effort to persuade California voters to pony up an additional $5.5 billion to finance stem cell research has so far spent nearly $1 million on its campaign, and the proposal is not yet on the November ballot.

The spending was reported by the Californians for Stem Cell Research, Treatments and Cures, the campaign committee led by Robert Klein, a Palo Alto real estate developer who also directed the campaign that created the state stem cell agency in 2004 via a ballot initiative. 

The $942,005 in spending covers all of 2019 but not 2020. The report to the California Secretary of State shows that the committee received only  $712,254 in non-monetary contributions and had a zero balance as of the end of last year. All of the contributions came Klein Financial Corp. in Palo Alto, Ca., or from Klein, who is president of the real estate investment firm. 

Klein was the first chairman of the stem cell agency, known officially as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). The agency is running out of money and needs the additional billions to continue its work. It was funded with $3 billion in state borrowing 15 years ago. 


Robert Klein addressing CIRM board
 about the ballot measure in 2017
The campaign finance report showed that Klein personally contributed the largest amount, $534,340.  The contributions were all described as non-monetary. The term includes such things as employee services and "enforceable promises," involving such matters as a loan. 

Klein told the California Stem Cell Report in 2017 that he expected that the current stem cell ballot initiative campaign, including signature gathering, campaign advertising, etc., would run this year about $50 million. 

In a telephone interview last week, he demurred when asked about campaign finances and fundraising. 

Klein has reported to state election officials that the campaign has collected 25 percent of the more than 600,000 signatures needed to qualify for the fall ballot. That benchmark sets the stage for legislative hearings on the proposed initiative.

The legislature cannot modify the initiative but it could offer its own alternative approach. No date has been set for hearings, which must occur 131 days before the Nov. 3 election.    

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