Thursday, December 09, 2010

No Real Problem with Canadians as CIRM Chair

A California attorney general's opinion rendered decades ago makes it abundantly clear there was no real legal barrier to a Canadian citizen serving as chairman of the state's $3 billion stem cell agency.

CIRM Chairman Robert Klein announced last week that the candidacy of Alan Bernstein, head of HIV Global Vaccine Enterprise of New York, had to be dropped because of what Klein described as a citizenship problem. Klein's announcement came after a public ruckus erupted over his attempts to maneuver Bernstein into the chair's post.

Klein referred to a California government code section that says a person cannot hold “civil office” in California without being a citizen of the state.

However, the 1978 opinion from the attorney general said,
“This section by its requirement of citizenship for the holding of a civil office is unconstitutional in that it is not narrowly and precisely drawn so as to apply only to offices whose incumbents participate directly in the formulation, execution or review of broad public policies having a substantial impact upon the public. 61 Op.Atty.Gen. 528, 12-6-78.”
In California, such attorney general opinions are the litmus test for actions by state agencies, having the force of law for all practical purposes. The attorney general's Web site says,
“The formal legal opinions of the Attorney General have been accorded 'great respect' and 'great weight' by the courts.
As reported in a previous item, Web CIRM's outside counsel, James Harrison, told us,
“We discovered the citizenship issue when Bernstein's name was mentioned as a candidate. Given the litigation CIRM has faced over the years, there was a need to be cautious and there was not sufficient time to obtain closure on this issue before the deadline for nominations. You should know that there is an AG opinion from 1978 declaring that the citizenship requirement is unconstitutional.”
Earlier we raised the question of whether the law in question would apply to CIRM President Alan Trounson, who is an Australian, and who was hired three years ago. Our reading is that it would. However, that is moot given the attorney general's opinion.


  1. Anonymous8:20 AM


    Hiring Alan Trounson the Australian resulted in the State generating an additional state paycheck, while hiring Bernstein the Canadian would mean that Klein would LOSE his state, approximately $12,500 per month state paycheck. (Doesn't he get $150,000 per year for 1/2 time work?)

    How is it or why is it that Klein is the mouthpiece or more (as the facts may be) to say Bernstein was disqualified on the citizenship issue?

    Am I the only one who detects a possible conflict of interest here?

  2. CIRM gave little money to promote California’s human embryonic stem cell research, no surprise little attention too, should have more transparency. CIRM board of directors use grant preselection button to disqualify California stem cell scientist’s grants for human embryonic stem cell research and therapy, while hold meetings exclusively for their own institutions. As a result, members of their own institutions would mysteriously receive grants for non-human stem cell research or therapy with stunning high scores. For example, CIRM Board Directors Floyd Bloom (Scripps) and Duane Roth (UC connect) held meetings exclusively for members of their own institution and out of state reviewers. Salk’s viral professor Inder Verma would end up receiving ~ 5 millions from CIRM, who openly said that he did not even know what to do with the money, let us wonder why he wrote the grant at the first place. Out of the State cancer development professor Wechsler-Reya would receive ~ 6 millions leadership award to move to California. Let us wonder what kind of leadership he is going to provide to California’s human embryonic stem cell research for a person who has never done any stem cell research, and how many internal deals were made with State’s stem cell bond initiative.