Friday, July 11, 2008

Consumer Watchdog Says Klein Should Resign Because of Personal Attack on Lawmaker

The Consumer Watchdog organization today called for the resignation of Robert Klein as chairman of the $3 billion California stem cell agency after his private lobbying group called a respected state senator "dumb" and "craven."

John M. Simpson, stem cell project director for Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit Santa Monica, Ca., organization, said the attack was an inappropriate "over-the-top, hysterical call to battle."

Writing on the group's blog, Simpson referred to the Internet posting Thursday by Americans for Cures, Klein's stem cell lobbying group, on the Daily Kos, a widely read and influential political blog.

Americans for Cures targeted Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, and her legislation – SB 1565 – which is designed to ensure affordable access to any therapies that result from taxpayer-financed stem therapies. Simpson wrote:
"One can oppose the bill without launching personal attacks and suggesting the sky is falling. For the most part, the board members and agency's staff have followed that policy. But Klein insists on wearing two hats: ICOC(CIRM's board of directors) chairman and president of his advocacy group.

"The positions are incompatible. Since Klein refuses to give up the advocacy role, he must step down from his public position as head of a state agency. Failure to do so undermines the stem cell agency's credibility and ability to do its vital work."
Simpson summarized the legislation:
"It puts in statute regulations CIRM itself developed governing access to drugs by the uninsured; it lowers the vote of the scientific working group necessary to recommend funding non-embryonic stem cell research from a two-thirds majority to a simple majority; and it asks the state's non-partisan Little Hoover Commission to study the governance structure of the agency."
Kuehl's aides have been working with CIRM staffers to deal with the agency's official objections. Earlier this week, Kuehl amended her measure to deal with CIRM concerns. But Klein's lobbying group says the bill is unacceptable in "any form."

We have asked CIRM and Kuehl's office if they have any comment on the posting by the Klein group. We have not received a response, but will carry their comments should they make any.

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