Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Brief Look at CIRM's Outside Contracts

The California stem cell agency plans to post on its web site later today a key financial document on its legal, lobbying, public relations and other outside contracts, less than 24 hours before the report is to come before a panel of the agency's directors.

The document reviews some of CIRM's spending this year for outside contractors, who consume the second largest amount of money in the agency's operational budget (see item below). However, the document was missing even a guess at how much will be spent by the end of this fiscal year, which is about one month away.

The report only covered expenditures for contracts through February. It also contained no total for all outside contracts through February. Nor did it appear to specify all of the ongoing obligations resulting from multiyear contracts.

A quick look at the document showed that CIRM has contracted for $596,899 worth of legal services, apparently mostly for the first three quarters of the year. The figure included $250,000 for the Remcho law firm(see item below). CIRM also spent $100,000 with the State Department of Justice. CIRM has had seven attorneys or law firms on its staff or under contract during the reporting period, including a general counsel. Joining the agency recently is attorney Nancy Koch, who won a $150,000 contract for intellectual property, most of which will be spent during the next fiscal year.

We should note that our $596,899 figure does include $36,900 for the Nielsen, Merksamer law firm of Sacramento, Ca., which performs lobbying services among other things. CIRM classified Nielsen's services under "public education" rather than legal services or lobbying. Our total for legal services does not include, however, $20,000 for the Rubenstein Associates PR firm of New York City.

In February, the Consumer Watchdog group disclosed a $10,000 CIRM contract with Rubenstein through the Remcho law firm and said CIRM was "laundering" its PR advice through Remcho. It was not clear whether the $10,000 figure in February was part of the $20,000 reported by CIRM in today's outside contracting report.

After a flap developed in 2005 about outside contracts, CIRM directors told CIRM staff to provide quarterly reports on outside contracting. The last came in December 2007.

Look for a link to the outside contracting report under the Governance Subcommittee agenda. Its meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m. Wednesday in Los Angeles with teleconference locations in San Francisco at CIRM headquarters, Sacramento, La Jolla, Carlsbad, Palo Alto and Stanford. All of the locations are open to the public.

Don Gibbons, chief communications officer for CIRM, provided a copy of the outside contracting report to the California Stem Cell Report this afternoon and said it was expected to be posted later today. However, he is working through the state bureaucracy, which sometimes does not move with great alacrity.

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