Robert Klein II, who chairs the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, continues to drag down the $3 billion stem cell research program he helped establish.
Klein wrote the 2004 ballot initiative that created the institute and helped pick its staff and headquarters in San Francisco. Through his connections with the governor and other state leaders, Klein effectively directs who is
appointed to the institute’s 29-member oversight board, which includes
university deans dependent on research funds that Klein controls.
That should be enough power for any one public official. But not for Klein.
Up until last week, Klein also served as president of Americans for
Cures, an advocacy group that works out of offices he owns in Palo
Alto. That linkage provides Klein with a nongovernmental agent with
which to go after his opponents and further his institutional power.
One of these opponents is state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, who is
moving a bill that Klein opposes. Her Senate Bill 1565, among other
things, would regulate prices of therapies that may one day emerge from
California’s $3 billion investment in stem cell research.
Unable to stop the senator’s bill from moving through the Legislature,
Americans for Cures personally attacked her last week on the Daily Kos,
a popular liberal blog. The posting, since removed, accused Kuehl of
"mindlessly buying into Republican and anti-cures messaging from the
Catholic Church, or playing dumb in a craven attempt to get Republican
This isn’t the first time Klein or his nonprofit have
attempted to vilify a legislator who crossed them. Two years ago, they
went after former Sen. Deborah Ortiz of Sacramento, calling her "an
ongoing threat" for seeking more accountability over the stem cell
After the most recent incident, Consumer Watchdog and
other groups repeated their calls for Klein to resign from the
institute. Americans for Cures responded by blaming an unidentified
staffer for the blog item. Klein has reportedly said he will no longer
serve as president of the non-profit, a meaningless gesture since the
group will continue to use his Palo Alto offices.
There’s a legitimate debate over whether Kuehl’s bill overreaches, or doesn’t go far enough, in protecting the public interest. But the state agency
that Klein heads has staff at its disposal to help shape legislation.
Government officials shouldn’t be affiliated with special interest groups that lobby on issues that affect their agencies. After three years, it
remains flabbergasting that Klein doesn’t recognize that conflict and
the injury it causes to the state’s stem cell program. Even more
curious is why the institute’s "oversight" board continues to condone it.