The stem cell storm

By Chris Nolan  |  Posted 2005-03-23 Print this article Print

Here in California, many of those who supported the stem cell ballot initiative are worried about what looks like a brewing political storm. Robert Klein, the Palo Alto, Calif., real estate developer who pushed the measure to passage, has been making some serious missteps, sending the wrong signals about how hell deal with state officials.
His organization, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and the 29-member panel that oversees its work, the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee, have run into trouble over what—to a businessperson—sound like technical details.
As usual, an attempt to reach a spokeswoman for Klein wasnt successful. Kleins organization has been lobbied hard by lawmakers to make members of three key advisory "working groups" part of state open government law. Right now those groups, which will make recommendations on grants and studies, on loans and other funding and other programs to the full committee, will be regulated by that committee. Members arent subject to Californias somewhat rigorous financial disclosure law, and they are exempt from the states open meeting laws. In other words, they can meet in secret, and they dont have to reveal details about their financial affairs. In business, of course, this is standard. To a businessperson these sound like concerns that will only slow down the commissions good work. But in politics, details about public disclosure arent trivial. No one wants to be the legislator who backed a flim-flam artists self-dealing; its political kryptonite. In this case—more than $250 million a year for 10 years—the money is enormous. Klein has said hell take the suggestions that have been made to his committee while pointing out that the organizations critics are those who failed to support the measure. That may be, but theyve found friends—powerful friends—in the California Legislature. Like Fiorina, Klein has erred, counting on what he knows to be true in business to be true in politics. Instead of placating critics, stem cell backers may now have another fight at the ballot box on their hands. Carly Fiorina missed out on a marvelous political opportunity. She may easily find another job, although chances are it wont be as good. And the stem cell folks might right themselves politically before the fall. But some more careful attention to details is in order. Technology and Politics columnist Chris Nolan spent years chronicling the excesses of the dot-com era with incisive analysis leavened with a dash of humor. Before that, she covered politics and technology in D.C. You can read her musings on politics and technology every day in her Politics from Left to Right Weblog.

Standalone journalist Chris Nolan runs 'Politics from Left to Right,' a political Web site at that focuses on the intersection of politics, technology and business issues in San Francisco, in California and on the national scene.

Nolan's work is well-known to tech-savvy readers. Her weekly syndicated column, 'Talk is Cheap,' appeared in The New York Post, Upside, and other publications. Debuting in 1997 at the beginnings of the Internet stock boom, it covered a wide variety of topics and was well regarded for its humor, insight and news value.

Nolan has led her peers in breaking important stories. Her reporting on Silicon Valley banker Frank Quattrone was the first to uncover the now infamous 'friend of Frank' accounts and led, eventually, to Quattrone's conviction on obstruction of justice charges.

In addition to columns and Weblogging, Nolan's work has appeared in The Washington Post, The New Republic, Fortune, Business 2.0 and Condé, Nast Traveler, and she has spoken frequently on the impact of Weblogging on politics and journalism.

Before moving to San Francisco, Nolan, who has more than 20 years of reporting experience, wrote about politics and technology in Washington, D.C., for a series of television trade magazines. She holds a B.A. from Barnard College, Columbia University.


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