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Donors and Donations Must Be Identified Publicly, Say Consumer Advocates
Santa Monica, CA -- The top three public officials at California's stem cell institute must sever their ties to a gala benefit intended to raise money for the institute to avoid the appearance of selling special access to big donors, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) said today.

FTCR's call for the three to disassociate themselves from the black-tie fundraiser came in response to a letter from Robert Klein, chairman of the stem cell institute, who attempted to answer the consumer advocates' earlier expressed concerns about the appearance of a conflict of interest with the stem cell officials' involvement with the benefit.

Klein, Ed Penhoet, vice chairman, and Zach Hall, president, are serving as honorary co-chairman of the "Reach for Tomorrow, Research Today" fundraiser dinner and performance featuring Julie Andrews and Marvin Hamlisch on May 22. Purchasers of $5,000 or $10,000 tickets are being offered "private scientific briefings."

"The appearance of your names as honorary co-chairs and the fact that top level donors are being offered a private scientific briefing that I understand will involve CIRM scientific staff, leaves the inevitable impression that major donors can buy access to CIRM's top three officials," wrote John M. Simpson, FTCR's Stem Cell Project director, in a letter to Klein. "There is a strong likelihood these donors will represent the very entities that receive Proposition 71 stem cell research grants."

Click here to read Simpson's and Klein's latest letters.

FTCR said the three should resign from the gala committee and there should be no private scientific briefings. In addition, FTCR said, the names of the donors and amounts of donations must be released publicly before the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) accepts money from the fundraiser.

"You have placed yourselves in an unseemly position that undermines CIRM's integrity and troubles all of us who believe in stem cell research and good government," wrote Simpson. "You will find that a number of ICOC members share my concern about this event."

FTCR first raised the issue in a letter to Klein on April 12. Today's letter is a response to Klein's answer, in which he wrote, "I would like to clarify that Dr. Hall, Dr. Penhoet, nor I have any fiscal responsibility, control, or decision-making authority over the gala event."

Read Simpson's original letter, gala press release and sponsorship costs.

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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/.