Auditor: State Panel’s Commercials Did Not Violate Law
A commission formerly headed by Rob Reiner did not violate any laws or improperly fund a campaign to promote universal preschool, according to a state audit released on Tuesday, the Sacramento Bee reports (Mecoy, Sacramento Bee, 11/1). Legislators in March requested the audit after the Los Angeles Times reported that the commission used $23 million of public funds for commercials addressing preschool.
The California Children and Families Commission, or First 5, administers funds from a tobacco tax increase for health care and education programs for children age five and younger (Morain, Los Angeles Times, 11/1).
The commission in March spent $23 million in taxpayer funds on television advertisements supporting preschool. The ads aired as Reiner was working to gather support for a ballot measure that would have provided funds for universal preschool in California (Sacramento Bee, 11/1).
According to the report, the ads were "consistent with the commission's role of advocating for early childhood programs." However, the auditor reported that the commission awarded more than $77 million in media contracts without reviewing their costs.
The commission also paid $673,000 in fees and expenses to contractors that are prohibited under its own contract. Items included laptops, food caterers and monthly parking fees (Williams, AP/Palm Springs Desert Sun, 11/1).
Reiner spokesperson Mark Fabiani said, "The audit confirms what we've said all along -- that these ads were legal and appropriate" (Gledhill, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/1).
Sen. Charles Poochigian (R-Fresno) said the audit highlights the need for legislation that would bar publicly funded ad campaigns while ballot measures are being circulated (Sacramento Bee, 11/1).