Saturday, November 04, 2006

Does Klein's Endorsement of a Political Candidate Violate the Law?

The Biopolitical Times – the blog of the Center for Genetics and Society – has suggested that California stem cell Chairman Robert Klein has committed an illegal act by endorsing the Democratic candidate for California lieutenant governor.

Jesse Reynolds, a Center official who has followed CIRM since its inception, wrote:

"It's my understanding that as an appointed state official, he is prohibited from endorsing candidates for office."
Reynolds quoted a California State Supreme Court decision, Stanson v. Mott, as setting limits on electioneering by appointed officials. It said,

"A fundamental precept of this nation's democratic electoral process is that the government may not 'take sides' in election contests or bestow an unfair advantage on one of several competing factions. A principal danger feared by our country's founders lay in the possibility that the holders of governmental authority would use official power improperly to perpetuate themselves, or their allies, in office...; the selective use of public funds in election campaigns, of course, raises the specter of just such an improper distortion of the democratic electoral process."
Klein, of course, said he was endorsing John Garamendi as a private citizen – not as head of the Oversight Committee for the stem cell agency. If elected lieutentant governor, Garamendi would have the ability to appoint as many as five members to the 29-member Oversight Committee.

Reynolds wrote:
"His attempt at endorsing Garamendi as something other than his official capacity - chairman of the board of California's $3 billion stem cell program - is disingenuous and wrong. Everyone knows what his day job is. Klein's action is the equivalent of Leon Kass, then chair of the President's Council on Bioethics, lobbying Congress on stem cell research as a "private citizen" - a move that was
roundly criticized by stem cell research advocates."
Reynolds also cited an earlier item on the California Stem Cell Report which reported that Klein is head of Americans for Stem Cell Therapies and Cures, a lobbying and political action group. Reynolds continued:
"Klein chaired a similar advocacy organization, the California Research and Cures Coalition, just after the passage of Proposition 71. He resigned that post [PDF] under pressure. This is more egregious, in that the new organization is a lobbying outfit, not just an 'education' nonprofit. Moreover, it advocates for candidates that will appoint the board members whose support Klein needs to stay on in his official capacity. Klein must choose: Is he an advocate, or a public servant? He should resign from one of the two boards."
We are querying CIRM concernings its position on whether Klein can legally endorse candidates for state office. However, he and other state officials regularly make contributions to candidates for state office, an act that is tantamount to an endorsement and which is apparently not banned by state law.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Search This Blog