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The Reiner Anchor Around Arnold’s Neck

Sunday, February 26, 2006  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

From the Long Beach Press Telegraph editorial “Rob Reiner’s Misdeeds”:

Rob Reiner, who proclaims himself a protector of children, has managed to give preschool development a bad name.

Headline in the Sacramento Bee: “GOP wants Reiner fired.”

This story details how Reiner is trying to head off an audit of his taxpayer funded “Mass Media Communications Account” and that Reiner has launched an attack of GOP Senate Minority Leader Dick Ackerman:

Reiner also used his missive to Westly to attack Ackerman for his “politically motivated and baseless charges” and his “partisan fishing” expedition.

Reiner portrayed Ackerman as a foe of children’s programs who has received support from Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds, the tobacco giants that fought the tobacco tax increase that financed First 5.

“It is even less surprising that Republican Minority Leader Ackerman has also been supported by the California Chamber of Commerce, one of the primary opponents of Preschool for All,” Reiner wrote.

Here’s a background post on the “Mass Media Communications Account,” but Reiner’s defense of the use of the fund to run “preschool for all” ads during late ’05 and early ’06 as he was collecting signatures for his Proposition 82 initiative has fallen apart, and his attempt to hang on to his chairmanship while avoiding an audit and attacking Republicans puts Arnold is a terrible spot.

If the governor does nothing, he will allow Reiner to remain an issue all the way through the June election as the controversy will not end because Reiner is going to spend all of his political energy pushing a massive new preschool bureaucracy and a huge tike hike.

And as the press gets around to turning over all the rocks in the $230 million “Mass Media Communications Account,” the decision by the governor to keep Reiner around after his first term expired will grow even more costly.

All Arnold has to do is name a new state chair of the First Five Commission –a respected medical professional or foundation executive would be great, and he will have separated himself from the Reiner fiasco.

The longer Arnold hangs on to his Hollywood pal, the greater the damage to the re-election effort, and more crucially, all of Arnold’s claims to have gone to Sacramento to clean up the place.

Watch LA Weekly’s Bill Bradley, The Orange County Register’s new politics blog “Total Buzz,” FlashReport and of course Dan Weintraub’s California Insider for updates.

And keep an eye of Controller Steve Westley whose spokesman is now saying the question of an audit is now an open one. (Last week they were standing by their fellow Dem Reiner.) Westley can’t very well run as an outsider and a good-government guy if he attempts to sweep a huge mess under the rug. If Westley moves before Arnold does, expect to hear about that in the governor’s campaign for sometime to come.

UPDATE: Blog reactions from Freedom Eden, The Hollywood Pulpit, PajamasMedia, and Shark and Shepherd.


One of the absurd aspects of the Reiner “leave of absence” charade is that, if the intent of the law is served, he’ll be out in early 2007 in any event. There’s a two term limit, and though Reiner has been a “holdover” appointee since his first term expired in 2003, surely he’s not going to argue that he gets to reign as Chair indefinitely?

Here’s the language from the original initiative on the Chair’s two-term limit:

130110. There is hereby established a California Children and Families First Commission composed of seven voting members and two ex officio members.
(a) The voting members shall be selected, pursuant to Section 130115, from persons with knowledge, experience, and expertise in early child development, child care, education, social services, public health, the prevention and treatment of tobacco and other substance abuse, behavioral health, and medicine (including, but not limited to,
representatives of statewide medical and pediatric associations or societies), upon consultation with public and private sector associations, organizations, and conferences composed of professionals in these fields.
(b) The Secretary of Health and Welfare and the Secretary of Child Development and Education, or their designees, shall serve as ex officio nonvoting members of the state commission.

130115. The Governor shall appoint three members of the state commission, one of whom shall be designated as chairperson. One of the Governor’s appointees shall be either a county health officer or a county health executive. The Speaker of the Assembly and the Senate Rules Committee shall each appoint two members of the state
commission. Of the members first appointed by the Governor, one shall serve for a term of four years, and two for a term of two years. Of the members appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly and the Senate Rules Committee, one appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly and the Senate Rules Committee shall serve for a period of four years with the
other appointees to serve for a period of three years. Thereafter, all appointments shall be for four-year terms. No appointee shall serve as a member of the state commission for more than two four-year terms.

Reiner clearly gets a lot of pschoprops from his chairmanship, and just as clearly he doesn’t get the idea of a public trust oiver taxpayer funds. But the injury he has done to the Commission’s reputation should be enough for him to quit.

He may think he’s irreplaceable, but there are many fine and actually qualified candidates to serve as chair of the state commission who won’t be tempted to use its funds to pursue private crusades.

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