February 10, 2005

Panel Going After Federal Anti-Cloning Bill

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The campaign committee that spent $35 million last year backing California's novel $3 billion stem cell initiative plans to use its fund-raising prowess to fight a federal bill seeking to ban all forms of human cloning.

Robert Klein II, the wealthy Palo Alto housing developer who chaired the campaign, said the organization intends to raise $1 million to fight Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, and his anti-cloning allies in the Senate. A Brownback spokesman declined comment.

Brownback is sponsoring legislation that would ban the cloning of human embryos for any reason, including medical research. Such a law would directly threaten the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, which intends to use some of the $3 billion in voter-approved bond money to dole out grants for so-called therapeutic cloning projects.

Some stem cell researchers say cloning human embryos in petri dishes will help them better understand diseases. Cloning also may offer a way to avoid immune-system rejection after transplanting replacement tissue in sick people. The scientists universally oppose cloning to create babies.

Still, many abortion foes and other conservatives view the work as immoral, regardless of its purpose.

"This is clearly going to be a major battle this year," said Larry Soler, the Washington-based chief lobbyist for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

The foundation is part of a Washington, D.C-based coalition of nonprofit organizations supporting stem cell research. The coalition has been battling various anti-cloning proposals almost since the day it formed in 2001. Two similar bills have passed in the House, only to stall in the Senate.

Klein, who also is a board member of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and the campaign committee he headed last year will work with the coalition in its effort to defeat the Brownback bill. Klein also is interim president of the California stem cell institute.

The campaign committee supported Proposition 71, which passed with 59 percent of the vote in November and created the California stem cell institute.


On the Net:

California Institute for Regenerative Medicine

Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation