Stem-cell group raises $4.4 million for statewide vote

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The coalition is backing a constitutional amendment protecting stem-cell research.Most of the donations came directly or indirectly from the founders of Kansas City's Stowers Institute for Medical Research.

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- In just three months, a coalition backing a constitutional amendment protecting stem-cell research and treatments raised and spent about $4 million to promote the potential ballot initiative.

Most of that money came either directly or indirectly from one source: James and Virginia Stowers, founders of Kansas City's Stowers Institute for Medical Research.

Campaign finance reports filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission show the Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures raised more than $4.4 million in cash and in-kind contributions through Dec. 31 and spent $3.8 million. The campaign committee reported cash on hand of $368,205.

The coalition is seeking a statewide vote in November on a proposal that would guarantee that all federally allowed human stem-cell research could occur in Missouri, including a contentious kind of cloning that opponents claim results in the destruction of life in its earliest stages.

The coalition has put petition signature gathering on hold pending the outcome of a legal challenge to the measure's ballot language. A hearing is scheduled Thursday in Cole County Circuit Court.

Unlike political candidates, supporters or opponents of a constitutional amendment are able to collect unlimited donations.

The coalition's campaign committee reported receiving $977,000 from James and Virginia Stowers. The campaign report listed an additional $3.1 million in cash and in-kind contributions as being transferred from a not-for-profit corporation with the same name as the campaign committee. The Stowers were the source of $2.9 million of that money.

Besides founding the research institute, James Stowers also is the founder of American Century Investments, a Kansas City mutual fund company.

Other large contributors to the stem cell research group included Richard Mahoney, of St. Louis, a retiree from Washington University, who gave $100,000 in November. Former Washington University chancellor William Danforth contributed $150,000 in October.

The Committee for a Healthy Future, which is proposing a tobacco tax increase that would appear on the November ballot, reported raising $371,091 during the past quarter, bringing its total for the campaign to $2.5 million. The committee reported $324,315 on hand.

Coventry Health Care Inc., of Bethesda, Md., and Blue Cross Blue Shield, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., each contributed $100,000 to the campaign committee in late October. The Civic Progress Action Committee in St. Louis contributed 83,000, and the Regional Business Council in St. Louis contributed $50,000.

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