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Another Boondoggle
Rob Reiner’s preschool deception…
[Ray Haynes] 3/5/06

Do you remember Chuck Quackenbush? He was the insurance commissioner who lost his job because he used fines that he collected from insurance companies to buy television commercials to promote his political career. It was a huge scandal at the time, and Quackenbush, who was a colleague of mine in the Assembly, left his job in disgrace, having been run out of office by Legislative Democrats for abusing state money.

Another boondoggle is brewing, only this time Legislative Democrats are strangely silent.


Ray Haynes

Mr. Haynes is an Assembly member representing Riverside and Temecula. He serves on the Appropriations and Budget Committees. [go to Assembly Member Haynes website at California Assembly][go to Haynes index]

A few years ago, Rob Reiner (“Meathead” from the old television series, “All in the Family”) sponsored an initiative to create a children’s health commission, funded by a fifty cent per-pack tax on cigarettes. This commission, called “First 5 California Children and Family Commission,” was intended to administer the money collected from this tax, and spend it on local health initiatives and early childhood development programs for children. The initiative has generated over $4 billion since it went into effect.

This year, Reiner is sponsoring an initiative to create mandatory preschool for all children, and proposes a one percent tax increase on rich people to pay for this program. Reiner is also the chair of the First 5 Commission.

Now the Commission is spending the money it collects through taxes on cigarettes to promote the Reiner preschool initiative. The commission has spent $23 million of your tax dollars on commercials for “Preschool for All” (which also happens to be the name of his initiative) in one of the largest state funded advertising programs ever. It has also spent $230 million on advertising and public relations firms that helped Reiner create the First 5 Commission, and it paid $206,000 of that tax money to three political consultants who had no contract with the state, but who became the campaign consultants for the preschool initiative. Reiner’s lawyer said the ads were “entirely legal and proper” because they do not expressly urge people to vote for or against the initiative.

You and I are paying for political consultants, television ads, and public relations operations that all promote a preschool program. They argue that since they don’t really say you should vote for such a program, this tax money was spent legally. That is dangerous. As further evidence of this commission’s intent to aid the initiative, the public relations firm that did the proposal for the ads said that “while the [commission] should not advocate on behalf of the initiative” the goals of the “Preschool for All” program would have to be achieved through legislative or electoral action.

This is political spin for “We want to spend the tax money on our political operation; we just want to fool people into thinking it is legal.”

So where are the cries of outrage? Quackenbush was wrong. Reiner is wrong. Reiner, as chair of the Commission, has specifically pushed the state to pay for his political campaign. He should lose his job, and reimburse the state for the $253 million he spent to push his boondoggle on the people of the state of California.

If this were a Republican initiative, the howls of protest would echo throughout the state. However, since this is a tax increase, and an attempt to create a whole bunch of new government jobs (with the forced union dues that come along with those jobs), the lefties in Sacramento have fallen silent.

The only way to stop this kind of boondoggle is to register your displeasure at the ballot box. I hope you will show up at the polls, and tell Mr. Reiner exactly what you think of his attempt to deceive you with your tax dollars. And since I didn’t expressly advocate a vote for or against the initiative, this commentary is legal.

So there Mr. Reiner. -CRO-


Mr. Haynes is a California Assembleyman representing Riverside and Temecula and frequent contributor to


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