Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Klein's Lobbying Group Opposes Affordable Access Bill

The private stem cell lobbying group run by Robert Klein, who also serves as chairman of the $3 billion state stem cell agency, is formally opposing legislation aimed at ensuring that state-financed therapies are affordable and accessible to Californians.

The opposition of Americans for Cures was noted today in the legislative staff analysis of SB1565 by Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, and Sen. George Runner, R-Antelope Valley.

The legislation cleared the Assembly Judiciary Committee today on a unanimous vote. No lawmaker has voted against the proposal in either house. It now goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee and from there to the Assembly floor. It has already passed the state Senate.

The staff analysis said that Klein's group, Americans for Cures,
"...believe that access and affordability are best addressed by creating larger pools of affordable healthcare insurance, and that policies should accelerate cures, rather than discourage them. It is important to note that the intellectual property provisions in this bill that the opposition contend will create disincentives to commercialize drugs and therapies are very similar to the current and proposed regulations promulgated by the ICOC."
Klein is president of Americans for Cures, which shares the same address as his real estate investment banking firm in Palo Alto, Ca. It is extremely unusual for the head of a state government agency to also lead an advocacy group whose interests are in the same arena as the agency's. Americans for Cures has denied that it is a lobbying group, although it attempts to influence legislation and government decision-makers.

Klein told the Legislative Subcommittee of CIRM's board of directors last week that patient advocacy groups nationwide would be lobbying California legislators on SB1565. It is our recollection that he did not mention the role of his own group, which has nationwide ties with advocacy groups.

The staff analysis also added more information about an independent state body, the Little Hoover Commission, that would be requested under the bill to examine CIRM with an eye to coming up with recommendations, particularly in relationship to the built-in conflicts of interest on its board. The analysis said,
"The Little Hoover Commission is uniquely positioned to review conflicts and make recommendations for improved governance.

"An independent state oversight agency established in 1962, the Little Hoover Commission's role differs in three distinct ways from other state and private-sector bodies that analyze state programs. Unlike fiscal or performance audits, the Little Hoover Commission's studies look beyond whether programs comply with existing requirements, instead exploring how programs could and should function in today's world. The Little Hoover Commission produces reports that serve as a factual basis for crafting effective reform legislation and follows through with legislation or administrative changes to implement its recommendations.

"In addition to the public hearings the Little Hoover Commission holds to develop findings and recommendations, hearings are held and progress reports are issued in the years following the initial report until the Little Hoover Commission's recommendations have been enacted or its concerns have been addressed. These processes uniquely position the Little Hoover Commission to review possible conflicts and make recommendations for improved governance of CIRM and the ICOC, thus helping ensure better accountability to Californians for their $6 billion investment."
At its meeting Thursday and Friday, the board of directors of CIRM is expected to formally oppose SB1565.

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