Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Eve of the CIRM Election: Klein Invokes Sudden Financial Warning

CIRM Chairman Robert Klein today sounded an urgent, financial alarm in his bid to be re-elected to a new term at the $3 billion California stem cell agency.

In a “statement of candidacy” on the CIRM Web site, Klein indicated he was needed at the agency to handle a sudden, new quasi-crisis that requires action next month. And in an effort to make it easy for directors to choose him at their meeting tomorrow at Stanford University, he also reduced his proposed term to three to six months, down from 12 months. However, he did not renew his pledge not to take a salary, which could hit $529,000 annually.

Several items concerning Klein's candidacy were fresh in the statement. One was the financial warning from Klein, who portrays himself as something of an expert on government bond financing. He said that the agency needed to move swiftly on new issuance of new state bonds, CIRM's only source of financing.

At their meeting just last Wednesday, CIRM directors heard no mention of the problem, only a routine budget presentation with no indication that quick action was needed.

But in his message dated yesterday, Klein said it was “essential”for CIRM to quickly provide assurances of “reliability of our funding.” He wrote,
“The (state) Treasurer's office has just informed us that the next California Stem Cell Research and Cures Finance Committee meeting must be held in January 2011. Recent applications for clinical trial rounds and the acceleration of our funding commitments on our other programs require an immediate focus on this issue, given there may not be another opportunity until late 2011 to authorize additional bond funding.”
Klein also said that “our collaborative funding partner nations” require early next year “assurances of our future performance.”

It is not the first time Klein has sprung a January financial surprise on directors. In January 2009, he unveiled a critical bond funding problem that directors also had not been informed about earlier.

(See here, here and here.)

Another new item in the candidacy statement was Klein's promise to only serve three to six months, although it is not clear that the board can elect a chairman for anything less than the six years specified by law. Previously Klein promised to serve only 12 months. Significantly, in the otherwise fairly detailed document, he did not renew his promise not to take a salary. Currently he receives $150,000 for halftime work and is entitled up to $529,000 annually

Klein, a Palo Alto real estate investment banker, additionally backed away from his position that he can only be replaced by a nationally known scientist. Instead, he said he would work with the board to develop criteria for selection of a new chair.

Klein also pledged to “change the communications paradigm,” which encompasses the agency's public relations efforts. He cited an example of a 3 million, “affinity group” email effort during the 2004 election campaign for Prop. 71 as something he would like to replicate. Klein said that CIRM's communications should be changed “from our highly refined scientific focus (with emerging, quality public components) to a broad and innovative program that will be meet our obligation to inform all Californians of the milestones of progress we have achieved.”

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous1:06 PM

    Looks like Klein intends to use the resources of CIRM to begin the campaign for the next Proposition 71, a campaign that he presumably will head.