Trying to do something without legal authority to do so is a bad look for a top state regulator
By the Editorial Board, THE SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE
July 22, 2019
Two weeks ago, Jeff McDonald of The San Diego Union-Tribune revealed that new Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara had accepted more than $50,000 in donations to his re-election campaign from insurance executives and their spouses, breaking a campaign promise. Lara wouldn’t comment to McDonald, but after the story was printed, Lara described his acceptance of the donations as an oversight, said he would no longer be his own campaign treasurer and promised to return the funds.
The U-T Editorial Board gave Lara credit for blaming himself instead of an aide and accepted his explanation while faulting his poor judgment. But McDonald’s latest report shows Lara intervened in several proceedings “involving a company with ties to insurance executives and their spouses who donated tens of thousands of dollars to his re-election campaign.” The administrative law judges’ rulings Lara involved himself in were in cases involving Applied Underwriters and its subsidiary, California Insurance Co. Yes, these complex cases should be considered in the context of what the last insurance commissioner, Dave Jones, did in his dealings with Applied Underwriters. But it’s telling that Administrative Law Judge Clarke de Maigret essentially rebuked his boss — Lara — for seeking to reopen a case without having the legal authority to do so.
Barring new details surfacing in these cases, this appears to be classic Sacramento pay-to-play sleaze. The 6.2 million Californians who voted for Lara in November — and the nearly 40 million Californians he represents — should be deeply disappointed. This episode looks less like a novice mistake and more like Lara knew what he was doing.