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Rob Reiner and the Los Angeles Times

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The word out of Sacramento is that the Los Angeles Times is digging into Rob Reiner’s First Five Commission and that the Public records Act requests are flowing in to the offices of the California First Five Commission which Reiner heads. The last time the Times dug into the actor-director’s crusade to first pass a 50 cent a pack cigarette tax to benefit children from the womb to 5 years, and then to lead the state commission which gets 20% of the revenues that flow from the tax, the paper was falling over itself to praise Reiner.

The article also suggested that Reiner was looking for an exit or at least forward to his retirement from the chairmanship of the state commission, but he’s still there even though Arnold could replace him with a new chair tomorrow. And Reiner’s state commission is now under fire for mixing Reiner’s political agenda with the Commission’s business.

Reiner believes passionately in preschool for all kids, and with his prodding the State Commission has been pushing this model for some time.

Reiner also organized and has qualified a Preschool for All ballot initiative for California’s June election.

In the months during which signatures were being gathered to qualify the initiative, The State Commission ran millions of dollars in ads extolling the virtues of preschool, defending the expenditure as just part of the Commission’s ongoing “public education” programs.

It is said that the Times is focusing on the public education programs, and not just the blatantly political campaign in support of Reiner’s initiative. One estimate is that $40 million has been spent on these media campaigns since Prop 10 funding started flowing a half dozen years ago.

If the Times does its job, we’ll learn exactly how much has been spent on the campaign just concluded and since these campaigns began, as well as where it was spent, and whether there is crossover betweeen Reiner’s political consultants and the media consultants cashing the taxpayer-funded checks.

That’s a big “if,” of course, as the Times hates to hit Democrats hard and hates to hit Hollywood hard. But this story has all the ingrediants for a big scandal, and perhaps the paper can’t resist.

But then again, when has the Times ever allowed a good story to get in the way of its agenda?

Full Disclosure: I am a member of the Orange County Prop 10 Commission and have been from the first day of its operation. I applied to join it because I knew the money that would flow would be immense (it is about $40 million annually just for Orange County), and could easily be squandered. I have frequently and loudly complained about what I see as silly and wasteful “public education” spending, and the more I learn about the enormous needs that exist for children, some of which could be provided with relatively little funding, my anger with this spurious political campaign dressed up as “public education” grows.

If “public education” is going to be done with scarce resources, do it about the Avian Flu menace, the dental hygeine steps that are easy to communicate, or the anti-obesity messages that can in fact be effective, not on promoting preschool or initaitves promoting preschool.

I look forward to reading the Times’ story. And to Arnold’s reaction as Reiner stays in his post only because Arnold hasn’t named a replacement.


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