First 5 Will Be Audited
The Joint Legislative Audit Committee on Wednesday unanimously voted to conduct an audit of the First 5 California commission after allegations that it improperly funded a campaign to promote universal preschool, the Sacramento Bee reports. First 5 administers proceeds of a state tax to fund children's health care and education programs.
Rob Reiner recently took leave as chair of the commission that oversees First 5 to campaign for Proposition 82, a measure on the June ballot that would fund universal preschool in California (Sanders, Sacramento Bee, 3/9).
First 5 spent $23 million on an advertising campaign that critics say "made the case for universal preschool" without endorsing the proposition, the Oakland Tribune reports (Geissinger, Oakland Tribune, 3/9). Questions also have been raised about no-bid contracts to hire consultants "close to Reiner" and public funds paid to people working on the Proposition 82 campaign, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
State Auditor Elaine Howle said the audit will examine First 5 spending on advertising, contracting and whether there was coordination between a First 5 media campaign and the Proposition 82 political campaign (Wildermuth, San Francisco Chronicle, 3/9).
Howle said that she expects to begin the audit next month and that it likely will take about four to five months to complete (Morain, Los Angeles Times, 3/9).
In a letter to lawmakers on Wednesday, Reiner denied inappropriate use of First 5 funds and urged them to conduct the audit (Oakland Tribune, 3/9).
Summaries of a recent editorial and opinion pieces addressing First 5 funding appear below.
Riverside Press-Enterprise: State and Sacramento County officials should "launch investigations" into First 5 spending "soon," a Press-Enterprise editorial states, adding that in the meantime, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) "should permanently remove Reiner as head of First 5 and replace him with an experienced educator" (Riverside Press-Enterprise, 3/8).
- Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times: Proposition 10, which funds First 5 through a tobacco tax, "failed to provide guidance on rudimentary issues such as conflicts of interest, competitive bidding or how success should be measured," Hiltzik writes in his "Golden State" column in the Times (Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 3/6).
- Debra Saunders, San Francisco Chronicle: Reiner's "First 5 fiefdom didn't hesitate to spend $23 million of state money to tell you how to think about preschool," but that is "a no-no" because "[s]tate money is not supposed to bankroll political campaigns," Saunders writes in a Chronicle opinion piece (Saunders, San Francisco Chronicle, 3/5).