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Santa Monica, CA -- A gala San Francisco fundraiser intended to benefit the Proposition 71 stem cell institute smacks of selling special access and influence to well-heeled donors, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) warned in a letter today to the institute's chairman.

In addition to dinner and appearances by Julie Andrews and Marvin Hamlisch, tickets going for $5,000 and $10,000 offer private scientific briefings and tours of Mission Bay, Stanford and UCSF research laboratories, as well as an exclusive preview party and VIP reception. Money raised by the benefit concert, "Reach for Tomorrow, Research Today," will go to the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM).

Companies and people with vested interests in the biotech industry and the future of Prop. 71-funded $3 billion in stem cell research are the ones likely to buy the tickets, FTCR said.

"CIRM must not create the appearance that a biotech executive -- or other person wising to curry favor -- can do so and exercise undue influence by writing a big enough check," wrote John M. Simpson, FTCR stem cell project director, in a letter to CIRM Chairman Robert Klein.

Read the letter and information about the fundraiser.

"Most Californians' comments are limited to three minutes when items are discussed at your public committee meetings and hearings," Simpson wrote. "Now you are offering exclusive private access to those with enough money."

"CIRM must not solicit donations by offering donors benefits not available to the public," Simpson wrote.

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The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights is California's leading non-profit and non-partisan consumer watchdog group. For more information visit us on the web at: http://www.ConsumerWatchdog.org. Our stem cell information page is at located at: http://www.StemCellWatch.org.