Op-Ed

Michael Hiltzik
There probably wasn't much reason to hope that California's new embryonic stem cell institute, the offspring of perhaps the most misleading initiative campaign of 2004, would be a model of circumspection and openness as it geared up to spend $6 billion of taxpayers' money.

But did it have to live down to our expectations so quickly?

In the months since its creation by Proposition 71 on last November's ballot, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine has behaved not like the state agency it is, but with the arrogance of a private corporation that happens to be playing with the taxpayers' cash.

For instance, the institute staged an elaborate "search" for a headquarters city, playing San Francisco, San Diego and Sacramento off against each other like Walt Disney Co. dangling a theme park project in front of a bunch of rube mayors. San Francisco won _ which sure looked preordained, given its proximity to the homes of the agency's chairman, interim president and the venture capitalists who donated millions to pass Proposition 71.

It has largely refused to cooperate with state...