Thursday, April 16, 2009

Stem Cells and Three California Movers and Shakers

The Capitol Weekly newspaper in Sacramento today identified three men with close ties to California stem cell issues as among the top 50 political players in the state.

The list included Eli Broad, Richard Blum and the man behind CIRM's Sacramento lobbying firm. The rankings did not include elected officials, such as the governor, who is a good friend of the California stem cell agency.

Ranked No. 5 was Broad, the Los Angeles billionaire businessman who has funded stem cell research at UCLA, USC and UC San Francisco with tens of millions of dollars. In the 2007-08 election cycle, he spent nearly $1 million on political efforts. "If money talks, then everybody listens to Eli...," the newspaper reported.

Ranked No. 6 was Steve Merksamer of the firm of Nielsen, Merksamer, Parrinello, Mueller & Naylor, which is the Sacramento lobbyist for CIRM. Merksamer was one of its founding partners. The firm has been on retainer with CIRM since the agency's earliest days and currently has a $49,200-a-year contract with the agency for its services, which CIRM coyly describes as "public education." Capitol Weekly said Merksamer is "is one of the state’s most influential political-legal players. His 16-lawyer firm is involved in a myriad of political issues and dispenses legal advice and political strategy to a national and international big-business clientele."

Ranked No. 14 was Blum, chairman and president, Blum Capital, a major equity investment management firm. Blum is a University of California regent as is Sherry Lansing, a member of the board of directors of CIRM. Blum is also the husband of Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Blum Capital Partners purchased $1 million in bond anticipation notes to help fund CIRM in 2006.

The list of 50 is the first installment in a Top 100 count, with more "influence peddlers, power brokers and political players" to come next week.

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