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LAWMAKERS ORDER REINER CAMPAIGN AUDIT.

Byline: Steve Geissinger Sacramento Bureau

SACRAMENTO - Legislators ordered the state Auditor's Office on Wednesday to investigate whether Hollywood figure and political activist Rob Reiner improperly used millions of dollars in taxpayer funds to promote his proposed preschool initiative.

The Joint Legislative Audit Committee, acting on behalf of the Democrat-dominated Legislature, voted 11-0 to instruct the independent auditor to probe Reiner's performance as chairman of a state commission that allocates tobacco tax revenue for various uses.

The auditor will focus on whether the First Five Commission's $23 million ad campaign promoting preschool constituted an improper use of public funds for political purposes. The ads ran as Reiner worked to qualify a universal preschool initiative on the June ballot.

Sen. David Cox, R-Roseville, who called for the audit along with Assembly Majority Leader Dario Frommer, D-Glendale, said the committee's expenditure represents ``a clear conflict of interest'' and ``violates the spirit, if not the letter of the law.''

Cox said he also wants the audit to look into what he called a lack of competitive bidding in hiring of consultants and unusually high payments to them.

Cox compared the situation to scandals involving use of public funds for political purposes that led to the downfall of former Republican Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush and former Democratic Secretary of State Kevin Shelley.

Frommer said he supports Reiner but that ``it is very important for us to make sure this commission is properly spending its money, that it's accounted for, that there are proper ethics being observed in contracting practices and there is no collusion between a state agency and a political campaign for purposes of passing an initiative.''

In a letter to lawmakers Wednesday, Reiner denied any wrongdoing and urged them to conduct the investigation.

The First Five Commission was created with tobacco tax revenue from Reiner-supported Proposition 10, approved by voters in 1998.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 9, 2006
Words:309
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