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'Crisis Management' PR Firm's Advice to Stem Cell Agency Laundered Through Law Firm to Avoid Scrutiny
Date:2/7/2008

SANTA MONICA, Calif., Feb. 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Documents detailing the California stem cell institute's involvement with a well-known "crisis management" public relations firm reveal an agency leadership worried about the state agency's image and committed to keeping PR advice secret by channeling it through an outside law firm, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) said today.

The stem cell institute, a public body formed to spend taxpayer-approved funds on research, paid the PR `agency with money funneled through the law firm, according to documents obtained by FTCR. The PR agency then apparently funneled its advice back through the law firm. The stem cell agency used the tactic to claim legal "confidentiality" on public relations strategies at a time of negative publicity over apparent conflicts of interest among board members.

In response to a Public Records Act request from FTCR, the stem cell agency released 54 pages of documents about its involvement with Rubenstein Associates, a New York public relations firm that describes its crisis management work as "a paradigm for the industry." Eight of the 54 pages, which seem to be about specific advice on handling the news media, were redacted because they are "documents exempt from disclosure on the grounds of attorney-client privilege and attorney work product," according to Tamar Pachter, general counsel for the stem cell agency.

"What they've done is launder the public relations advice to a state agency through their outside attorney, Remcho, Johansen & Purcell," said John M. Simpson, FTCR stem cell director. "Once again the leadership of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine has shown concern about image, rather than substance, and a continued commitment to secrecy."

FTCR said CIRM should behave like the public state agency it is, not like a private corporation.

Read the documents here:

SOURCE Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights
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