Digital, mail-in push for stem cell initiative–more $$ to burn?

In 2004 Robert Klein promoted a $3 billion stem cell bond.  After it passed he became, at a large salary the head of the agency distributing the billions.  What were the results?

From the San Francisco Chronicle 9/06/18: 

“Not a single federally approved therapy has resulted from CIRM-funded science. The predicted financial windfall has not materialized. The bulk of CIRM grants have gone to basic research, training programs and building new laboratories, not to clinical trials testing the kinds of potential cures and therapies the billions of dollars were supposed to deliver.

Over that same time, many peoplesuffering from incurable diseases have become impatient waiting for scientists to produce the miracle treatments the Prop. 71 campaign said were within reach.

Instead, a thriving, for-profit industry of clinics offering dubious stem cell therapies based on half-baked science has sprung up, defying attempts at government regulation and requests from scientists to proceed cautiously.”

Since the first $3 billion did not work, the same people are coming back with a $5 billion hoist from the peoples bank accounts.  Due to the Wuhan Virus, this time they may not get enough signatures to get on the ballot.  I still remember the tear jerking commercials of Michael J. Fox, a Parkinson’s victim, begging for your vote to save his life.  Will he do it again?

Digital, mail-in push for stem cell initiative

by DAVID JENSEN, Capitol Weekly,  4/6/20  

The campaign to save California’s stem cell research program from financial extinction is making an “unprecedented,” electronic sprint to gather the final signatures to qualify its $5.5 billion rescue measure for the November ballot.

In the next eight days, the campaign says it needs 35,000 more signatures to be sure that the multi-billion-dollar ballot initiative is presented to voters next fall.

The campaign must gather the last 35,000 signatures through mail-in submissions by April 11th.

The stem cell agency, officially known as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), is running out of money. It will begin closing its doors in November without more funding.

The campaign’s web site says, “Over 915,000 voters have already signed petitions to help qualify our initiative for the November 2020 ballot. In the last full week before public signature gathering was shut down due to the coronavirus, over 120,000 voters signed – a tremendous response. But we need at least 950,000 signatures to secure a place on the California ballot this fall. Help us meet our goal by signing and returning a petition today. The campaign must gather the last 35,000 signatures through mail-in submissions by April 11th.”

In response to questions from the California Stem Cell Report, campaign spokeswoman Sarah Melbostad described the online move as “unprecedented.”

She said, “What’s happening right now across the world is unprecedented, which means the innovative changes we’re making to gather signatures through a mail-in option are unprecedented as well.”

The campaign’s unusual Internet pitch is aimed at putting petitions in the hands of its supporters. The effort requires downloading documents, reading detailed instructions on filling them out and then returning them by regular mail. Normally, paid signature gatherers take care of all that.

The process is not simple and is likely to be daunting for some.  The campaign’s web site mentions “wet signatures,” the importance of printing out the 16 pages of the petition and the need to complete the “circulator declaration.” A seven-minute instructional video has also been posted by the campaign (see above).

The campaign’s message stresses speed: “Time is of the essence; a fast response is needed to preserve our opportunity to guarantee our ballot position.”

The legal minimum of valid signatures of registered voters is 623,212. The extra hundreds of thousands of signatures are needed because many are disqualified by election officials during the certification process.

The campaign’s online pitch also includes a schedule of 30-minute webinars aimed at building support and answering questions. They began Friday at 6:15 p.m. PDT and will continue on April 7 and 11.

Ed’s Note: David Jensen is a retired newsman who has followed the affairs of the $3 billion California stem cell agency since 2005 via his blog, the California Stem Cell Report, where this story first appeared. He has published more than 4,000 items on California stem cell matters in the past 15 years. 

About Stephen Frank

Stephen Frank is the publisher and editor of California Political News and Views. He speaks all over California and appears as a guest on several radio shows each week. He has also served as a guest host on radio talk shows. He is a fulltime political consultant.


  1. Julie Meier Wright says

    I had reservations about the first stem cell bond initiative because few if any biotech drugs go from concept to commercialization in less than a decade, meaning that even the earliest work under the first stem cell initiative would, if successful (and that is a big “if”), not start producing any taxable revenue to the state in more than a decade.

    It did send a great message about California’s commitment to innovation – but at a very high price, one that taxpayers will be paying back for years.

    I would not be able to, in good conscience, support another, even larger initiative this time around. The state is carrying plenty of debt and it should be used for repair and improvement of our current infrastructure.

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