Stem Cell Scammers Go Signature Harvesting

In 2004, voters passed the $3 billion Proposition 71, the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative, which created the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). In the following 16 years, CIRM created none of the promised life-saving cures for Alzheimer’s and other diseases. Even so, with the $3 billion running out, CIRM went back to the voters with the $5.5 billion California Stem Cell Research, Treatments, and Cures Initiative of 2020. To get it on the ballot, Americans for Cures needed 950,000 signatures by April 18, and they resorted to some desperate measures.

In January, this writer asked a signature gatherer how much money the ballot measure was seeking. He told me $1.5 billion, a blatant falsehood. As the deadline approached, Don Reed, Americans for Cures vice president of public policy, began pushing for mail-in signatures. 

“Your signatures might literally save CIRM, helping us put a $5.5 billion renewal bill on the ballot,” Reed wrote. “Its purpose is to fight chronic diseases, like COVID-19, the dread coronavirus—and so much more!!”

Reed provided a website with directions to print out 16 pages, including an “address block to fill out, with yourself as the signature collector, and then four (just four!) signatures from people in your county. Your next door neighbors, perhaps.” This is to be mailed into Melissa King, executive director of Americans for Cures. If California taxpayers regard this as fraud it would be hard to blame them. 

The chairman of Americans for Cures is Robert Klein, the real estate tycoon who backed Proposition 71 in 2004. Klein deployed celebrities such as Christopher Reeve, Brad Pitt, and Michael J. Fox to tout the life-saving cure $3 billion would bring. This time the hero is Klein his own self, hailed by Don Reed as an irreplaceable man and “practical visionary” like Davy Crockett.

According to David Jensen of the California Stem Cell Report, if the signature count is not completed by June 15, “the stem cell measure will not be on the November ballot and the agency will begin closing its doors.” In the meantime, taxpayers might keep a couple things in mind.

Signatures based on false information should not be counted, nor should those sent in by mail. If this $5.5 billion money grab does land on the November ballot, taxpayers should count the number of cures and therapies CIRM produced with $3 billion. The ballpark figure is zero. 

K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at American Greatness.
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