In an editorial today and an investigative piece from Sunday, the Los Angeles Times takes on Rob Reiner's use of taxpayer dollars to run an advertising campaign for his "Preschool for All" initiative on the June 2006 ballot.
A sample from the Times feature:
Reiner heads the First 5 California Children and Families Commission, a panel of seven members appointed by the governor and legislative leaders. It was created by an initiative Reiner sponsored in 1998 to promote early childhood development.
The measure, which raised cigarette taxes by 50 cents per pack, has generated $4 billion so far, much of it used for childhood healthcare, preschool and anti-tobacco efforts. Under Reiner's leadership, the commission has:
ï Spent $23 million for the "Preschool for All" ads, which ran from November to mid-January, making it one of the largest state-funded advertising campaigns ever in California. In January, Reiner's new initiative, also called "Preschool for All," qualified for the June ballot as Proposition 82.
ï Given $230 million in advertising and public relations contracts â€“ including the preschool ad blitz â€“ to firms that helped Reiner create the First 5 commission. As companies competed for the business, Reiner wrote a letter recommending one firm, which won.
ï Paid $206,000 of the tax money to three political consultants, though they had no contract. One of them â€“ Benjamin Austin, a former Los Angeles deputy mayor â€“ said they helped coordinate the government activities of Reiner, the First 5 commission and the media consultants. Austin and the others subsequently joined the Proposition 82 effort, with Austin as campaign manager.