In a suprising move rarely seen in California politics, a major political figure, in control of hundreds of millions of dollars, resigns. Rob Reiner tendered his resignation today and suggests to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that he appoint his equally liberal political associate, Hector Ramirez. Gov. Arnold, felt comfortable "cooking" with similar meat. A new "controversy meal" is served.
Excerpts from LA Weekly, Bill Bradley's New West Notes -
FLASH: Rob Reiner Out Of First 5 (With Updates Throughout Day)
March 29th, 2006
Controversial movie director/initiative promoter Rob Reiner has resigned his long expired term as chairman AND member of the California Children and Families Commission (aka First 5). Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has appointed Para Los Ninos chief operating officer Hector Ramirez to replace him. Para Los Ninos is a very well-respected nonprofit family service organization in the Los Angeles area which receives funding from First 5.
UPDATE: Support for Reiner's Preschool for All initiative, Proposition 82 on California's June ballot, has spun downwards to barely more than 50 percent in new polling, a perilously low level of support for a complex fiscally-oriented ballot measure.
Prop 10 is funded by a 50 cent a pack tax on cigarettes. Prop 82 would be funded by an income tax surcharge on high-income Californians. In both cases, Reiner's stewardship of taxpayer money is at issue.
UPDATE: Schwarzenegger may have created another controversy for himself with the appointment of Hector Ramirez as First 5 Chairman. Ramirez is a political associate of Reiner's. The Proposition 82 campaign was launched at an event outside Para Los Ninos. Ramirez served on the executive committee of the First 5 LA's Preschool For All Initiative, which was, as I reported earlier, Reiner and First 5's initial attempt to institute a publicly-funded universal preschool program and served as a model for Prop 82.
Ramirez is also a leading member of the National Council of La Raza ("The Race"), an advocacy organization on a variety of issues, including immigration reform, in which it is frequently opposed to Schwarzenegger's policy.
Ramirez, according to his bio, serves as co-chair of the California Region Education Committee for the National Council of La Raza. The Packard Foundation (based on the Hewlett-Packard Co. fortune), which has worked closely with Rob Reiner on the First 5 program in general and Preschool For All in particular, is a major funder of the National Council of La Raza.
UPDATE: Mark Fabiani called a little while ago. Fabiani has very recently come on board as public relations counsel to Rob Reiner. Fabiani has extensive high-level political and PR experience. He is perhaps best known for serving as special counsel to President Bill Clinton handling the Whitewater controversy.
With Rob Reiner (Meathead to sausage) being able to replace himself with a staunch political ally, it will be hard for him to continue to allege that he was pressured out due to partisan politics. The issue has always been Reiner's possible illegal use of government funds to pursue/fund personal political objectives.
UPDATE: Friday, March 31 - More excerpts from LA Weekly, Bill Bradley's New West Notes -
Rob Reiner's End Game
By the end of last week, it was evident that movie director/initiative promoter Rob Reiner was in very hot political water. The California State Auditor investigation of his California Children and Families Commission, previously not scheduled, was now imminent, the Sacramento County District Attorney’s office continued its review, his Proposition 82 universal preschool initiative was in trouble in the polls, his friend Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was pressured by the controversy and involvement of his associates with the commission, and Reiner, hardly a man bereft of public relations counsel, was attempting to hire several high-powered PR and lobbying pros.
“The audit is clearly important,” said (California State Auditor Elaine)Howle. Important enough to move ahead of an audit of University of California financial practices. Once begun in mid-April, the audit will take four months.
“I expect to finish in August,” the state auditor said. “I don’t see that as a problem.” Finishing in August will allow time for legislative hearings on the Auditor’s findings.
She described the audit as having a very expansive reach, looking through the commission’s activities from 2004 on.
Reiner had put his friend Schwarzenegger on the spot, testing their Hollywood friendship by his refusal to finally step away from the commission, where his term had actually expired in 2004. His half-measure of taking a leave of absence had clearly and predictably failed. So over the past weekend, he spoke with the governor and made clear his intention to resign. The former action superstar agreed to replace Reiner with a Reiner associate, Hector Ramirez, chief operating officer of the highly respected Los Angeles family service organization, Para Los Ninos.
We will all watch as this "controversy meal" continues to simmer. To date, this whole Rob Reiner controversy has given us Meathead ground to sausage -- momentarily changed to schnitzel -- then added chorizo -- a sausage, schnitzel, chorizo stew seems to be what is simmering and it should be plated and ready to serve by the end of summer.
Thank you Bill Bradley and LA Weekly for showing the MSM (re: LA Times) how to cover, report, and inform citizens of the goings on in Sacramento.