Thursday, December 10, 2009

Torres Receives $225,000 Salary as CIRM Vice Chair

Directors of the California stem cell agency this afternoon unanimously approved a $225,000 salary for one of its co-vice chairmen, Art Torres, declaring that his work was “extraordinary” and has helped to improve relations in the nation's capital and elsewhere.

Torres (at right) joined CIRM in March on a half-time basis, with a $75,000 salary. Today's action gives him a $150,000 boost for work on an 80 percent basis.

Michael Goldberg, a CIRM director and general partner with Mohr, Davidow Ventures, a venture capital firm in Menlo Park, Ca., said Torres has picked up the work that previously was done by a fulltime legislative relations staffer. CIRM Director Jeff Sheehy, a communications manager at UC San Francisco, described Torres' work as “extraordinary” in telling the CIRM story to lawmakers.

No one at the directors meeting at Stanford University spoke against the salary move. However, John M. Simpson, stem cell project director of Consumer Watchdog of Santa Monica, Ca., was monitoring the proceedings in Southern California via an Internet audiocast.

Responding to a query, he said,
"At a time when California is in a severe economic crisis, state workers' salaries are being cut and they are facing mandatory furloughs, this raise is highly inappropriate. Art Torres knew the terms of the job when he took it. He should have been happy simply not to face the cuts endured by other state employees."
Torres has made a career as a public servant and politician. The former head of the state Democratic Party (1995-2009) had a 24-year career in the state legislature. He was first elected to the state Assembly in 1972, later served in the state Senate and became the first Latino nominated as a Democrat for statewide office(insurance commissioner).

Torres' talents and experience are unique within CIRM. No other director possesses the web of political connections and government experience that Torres brings to the state-financed stem cell effort. He also has maintained his political roots, campaigning last weekend in Hayward for a candidate for the Alameda county board of supervisors.

The candidate is Nadia Lockyer, wife of the state treasurer, Bill Lockyer, who is a friend and former state legislative colleague of Torres. Lockyer also presides over the sale of state bonds, which are virtually the only source of funding for the $3 billion stem cell agency.

The other vice chairman is Duane Roth, a San Diego businessman who has declined a salary.


  1. Anonymous9:23 PM

    Came across this blog when I googled "art torres stem cell", after noticing a speck of a story on his pay raise in the LA Times the other day. This is sordid, but not surprising. I'm not about to read 4 yrs. worth of your blog, but my impression was always that this initiative was more about saying FU to the Bush administration's position than actually accomplishing anything. Californians need to realize that in voting for polka dots and unicorns in the form of stem cells, high speed rail, ad nauseum, they are just shoveling money to the Democratic party/Labor establishment. Anyone who wants to fund stem cell research should write a check to UC Irvine, UCSF, whatever, instead of burdening me and my children with the interest payments on the Art Torres and Friends perpetual salary initiative.

    Irvine, CA

  2. Re Torres' salary comment below, the remarks by David in Irvine demonstrate several of the challenges facing CIRM's new subcommittee on communications. If the agency is to continue its work after the bond funds run out, it will need public support at time when many Californians are feeling churlish about state spending, given the hard economic times. As someone once said about another hard scientific public policy issue, it takes more than facts. Among other things, it takes faith, trust and confidence that CIRM acts in the public's best interest.

  3. Anonymous10:52 PM

    "Extraordinary Job" indeed! How was the assessment of his performance conducted? Via Survey? Via potential return of investment by the state bond underwriters? What are we getting for $225,000 on 80% time? By the way the bond financiers interests are not only in financing the bond but for the public good but also the fees associated with the paper, around 10-20%. To be fair, Senator Torres is very glib and can make one feel as if she is the most important person on earth---that's politics. However, when every state employee is being asked to return $$$ to the state with mandatory furloughs in order to keep the lights on, it makes no sense to increase his salary. Unless it is to boost his governmental retirement pension/salary through CALPERS which will be based on the last two years of salary. Let's see...that means instead of 80% of $80,000 pension upon retirement or $64,000 public pension, we, the taxpayers, are looking at paying his pension benefit at a round figure based on 80% of $225,000 per year for life plus health benefits for the rest of his life. According to my calculator that's a nice tidy sum of $180,000 per year and about 20% in health benefits or $45,000 more or less. That's about $225,000 per year for life upon his retirement.

    Nice work if you can get it. Extraordinary indeed!


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