In Loving Memory: Bonnie Reiss (1956-2018)
USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy
Bonnie Reiss (1956-2018) was a skilled lawyer, accountant, producer, writer, and expert in the organization and running of non-profit organizations.
Ms. Reiss’ dedication to public service made her a nationally recognized leader in the utilization of media to advance social and political causes.
Ms. Reiss was involved in community service even as a child growing up in New York. While attending the University of Miami from 1972-1976, Ms. Reiss was a leader in student government, wrote a regular column in the student newspaper and hosted a weekly radio show. Graduating top in her class with a degree in Accounting and Finance, Ms. Reiss was hired by one of the “Big 8″ accounting firms, Peat Marwick and Mitchell, where she gained invaluable experience auditing major corporations and doing systems analysis for major corporations.
It was always Ms. Reiss’ dream to be the first lawyer in her family and in 1977, her love of politics, public, and community service led her to Washington D.C. to attend the new and progressive program at Antioch Law School.
While in law school, Ms. Reiss worked on the staff of U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy where she drafted legislation, set up Senate hearings, and wrote speeches for the Senator on various issues. When Senator Kennedy ran for President in 1980, Ms. Reiss took a one-year leave of absence from law school to accept a position on Kennedy’s Presidential campaign staff. Ms. Reiss traveled the country organizing in Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire, Illinois, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and California. After serving as a “Floor Manager” at the Democratic National Convention in New York City in 1980, Ms. Reiss took the valuable political lessons learned and went back to Washington D.C. to complete her law degree. In 1981, Ms. Reiss graduated from Antioch Law School at the top of her class and moved to Southern California to take the Bar Exam and officially began her professional life.
As some years passed and Ms. Reiss’ entertainment law practice flourished, she desired to give more of her time back to community concerns and political activism. In l984, Ms. Reiss helped found the Hollywood Women’s Political Committee. Ms. Reiss served as Treasurer and on the Board of this powerful PAC from its birth in 1984 until she committed all her time and energy to global environmental issues and founded the Earth Communications Office (“ECO”) in 1988.
A lover of nature and all living things, Ms. Reiss gave up her lucrative entertainment law practice to dedicate herself to organizing the “media component of the global environmental movement.” In her five years as President of ECO, Ms. Reiss involved thousands of actors, directors, producers, writers, musicians, and other leaders in the communications industry in environmental causes. She produced award-winning ECO trailers seen in movie theaters nationwide; worked with top television shows to incorporate environmental themes; published and produced a quarterly newsletter; and was a leader in the greening of the entertainment industry, including her work to end the use of the compact disc wasteful “longbox” packaging and the successful creation of recycling programs at all the major movie studios. Ms. Reiss also spearheaded the campaign to a “dolphin safe” practice by StarKist and other tuna companies.
Ms. Reiss’ reputation as one of our nation’s best live-event producers got her invited by President Clinton to Washington D.C. in 1992 to produce the opening events of the 52nd Presidential Inaugural. The Presidential Memorial Bridge Parade and the Bells of Hope Event on Sunday, January 17, 1993 were unprecedented in our nation’s history, and part of an HBO cable television special.
Ms. Reiss resigned as ECO’s Executive Director in January 1994 and agreed to serve as the President of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s newly formed Inner-City Games Foundation. Ms. Reiss served as President of the ICGF for five years building a 15-city organization providing after-school programs for hundreds of thousands of young people.
Ms. Reiss continued to serve on the Board of the ICGF (renamed After-School All-Stars) throughout her life.
Ms. Reiss was part of the Proposition 49 Team drafting and sponsoring the After School Education and Safety Initiative. The Initiative, to make California the first state in the nation to provide funds for every elementary and middle school by providing after-school programs for their students, was passed by California Voters in 2002.
Ms. Reiss also launched Arnold’s All-Stars, a pilot after-school program in four Los Angeles middle schools. Arnold’s All-Stars was co-chaired by Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn and City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo and has become a model program for the State of California. She continues to serve on the national Board of After-School All-Stars.
Ms. Reiss served as Senior Advisor to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger where she was involved in all major policy and political strategy. Additionally, Ms. Reiss was a member of the California State Board of Education. Ms. Reiss worked for Pegasus Capitol as an Operating Advisor.
Ms. Reiss received numerous awards and honors including being listed in the Esquire Register, the Vanity Fair Hall of Fame, being named Earth Active Woman of the Year, Home Show’s Woman of Distinction, and receiving an award from the U.S. Army for working to give America’s youth positive alternatives to drugs and violence.