California Insurance Commissioner Halts Fundraising Over Conflicts

By Timothy Darragh, BESTWIRE

September 4, 2019

Sacramento, CA — California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara has suspended campaign fundraising for the rest of 2019 after repeated news media revelations that his campaign accepted funds from individuals with ties to the insurance industry.

Lara, in a letter sent to consumer advocates and posted on his campaign website, apologized for taking contributions from industry sources after pledging during his campaign not to do so.

“I believe effective public service demands constant adherence to the highest ethical standards,” he said. “But during my campaign and first six months in office, my campaign operation scheduled meetings and solicited campaign contributions that did not fall in line with commitments I made to refuse contributions from the insurance industry. I take full responsibility for that and am deeply sorry.”

Lara said he has returned all of those contributions and has fired campaign workers who solicited the funds.

Lara, a Democrat, kept his campaign fundraising operation going even after winning the elected position less than a year ago (Best’s News Service, Nov. 26, 2018).

Lara has been dogged over the summer months over news media accounts about having accepted campaign funds from individuals with companies that had workers’ compensation cases before the California Department of Insurance, according to Consumer Watchdog.

News organizations also hounded Lara about releasing his calendar of meetings with insurance-related businesses, a complaint his letter addressed with a pledge to have a “regular public release of my official calendar of meetings with external stakeholders.” He requested department attorneys to develop publicly available protocols for scheduling meetings with outside parties, particularly those with business before the department.

In addition, Lara also said he would postpone all fundraising activities until at least the end of this year and would implement vetting protocols to screen and report on all outside political activity “to ensure greater transparency and no direct connection to the insurance industry or department-regulated entities.”

Lara is a former assemblyman and state senator who sponsored legislation to create a single-payer health insurance program in the state (Best’s News Service, Feb. 26, 2018).

(By Timothy Darragh, associate editor, BestWeek: [email protected])

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