Stop taxpayer-funded politicking

Dave Cox is a Republican California state senator who represents the 1st District

When Californians approved Proposition 10, they agreed to tax cigarettes to fund a variety of children’s programs. What they probably didn’t realize is that they also created an unelected government agency controlled by Rob Reiner, or that he would spend millions of taxpayer dollars on campaign propaganda aimed at influencing their votes. This is clearly against the spirit if not the letter of the law.

Rob Reiner chairs the First 5 California Children and Families Commission. At his direction, it spent $23 million in taxpayer money on radio and television ads from November to January to promote the idea of “preschool for all.” Those are the same three words Reiner uses to describe his latest initiative to raise income taxes on wealthy Californians to pay for universal preschool.

While the taxpayer-funded ads were running all over California, Reiner’s political operatives collected signatures to qualify his universal preschool initiative for the June ballot. It is against the law to use taxpayer dollars for political purposes, and that is what Reiner appears to have done.

Last year, former Secretary of State Kevin Shelley resigned in the face of investigations into his misuse of federal funds for political purposes. Six years ago, former Insurance Commissioner Charles Quackenbush also resigned following similar misappropriation of taxpayer funds for political purposes.

Reiner’s activities meet a similar threshold of troubling behavior, and his role with Proposition 82 represents a clear conflict of interest. Democratic Assemblyman Dario Frommer and I asked the Joint Legislative Audit Committee to authorize a formal audit into the use of these dollars, as well as the lack of competitive bids for contracts awarded to Reiner’s consultants. Our request was unanimously approved with support from Democrats and Republicans on the committee.

I have consistently fought for more oversight of state government operations. There should be more accountability for how taxpayer money is spent and whether it conforms to the intended purpose. I make no apologies for doing the job my constituents elected me to do, and if that means asking tough questions about the chairman of the First 5 Commission, then so be it. We have a duty and responsibility to the people of California to ensure that taxpayer funds are used in the appropriate manner.

After all, it’s your money, too.