Monday, June 13, 2011

High Speed Rail and California Stem Cell Agency on Same Lobbying Track

The California stem cell agency has a number of things in common with the California High Speed Rail Authority. Both generate a certain amount of controversy. Both use billions in money borrowed by the state. And both are among the rare state agencies with a federal lobbying effort.

The rail authority was created by California voters in 2008 when voters approved $8 billion in bond funding. It already has snagged $3.5 billion from the feds, but needs many billions more.

The stem cell agency is all but ready to spend about $180,000 on outside lobbying help in Washington during the next 12 months. The rail authority has already spent $40,000 on lobbying in the first three months of this year, according to a story in The Sacramento Bee on June 12.

Where they diverge – so far – is the news coverage about their lobbying efforts. The Bee's story said that state Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, has begun an investigation into whether lobbying restrictions have been violated by the rail authority. LaMalfa said the publicly funded lobbying is "outrageous" and "inappropriate, at the very least."

No similar sentiments have been heard from state legislators about CIRM's federal lobbying foray. But one reader left this anonymous comment on The Bee's rail story.
"It should be illegal for any government enity to lobby with our tax money.... They take our tax money and spend it to ask for more of our tax money...... Is it any reason our government is a mess and corrupt?"
One difference currently exists between the rail and the stem cell lobbying. CIRM is not proposing at this point to ask for federal assistance, although outgoing CIRM Chairman Robert Klein talked up a massive, $10 billion package in 2009 that would help CIRM and the biotech industry.

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