$1.2 Million In Insurance Industry Donations In Past Two Weeks to Chamber PAC Running Ads Against Dave Jones
Santa Monica, CA – For the second time in two weeks, insurance industry giants have made major contributions to a political action committee campaigning to defeat insurance commissioner candidate Dave Jones and elect Mike Villines, according to new reports filed with the Secretary of State. Among the donations is $100,000 from Anthem Blue Cross, which had a 39% rate hike turned back by Insurance Commissioner Poizner earlier this year. The company has consistently fought legislation proposed by Jones that would have the Department of Insurance regulate health insurance rates the way auto and homeowner insurance rates are regulated in California under Proposition 103.
Car insurance chieftain George Joseph, Chairman of Mercury Insurance, also added $300,000 (bringing his two week total to $525,000); his company is currently the subject of multiple enforcement actions by the Department of Insurance and faces a possible hearing related to a proposed auto insurance rate hike.
Harvey Rosenfield, who authored Prop 103, the 1988 initiative that regulated the insurance industry and made the insurance commissioner an elected post, said: “The office of Insurance Commissioner belongs to the People of California, who made it an elective post so the Commissioner would not be beholden to the insurance industry. In 1994, the insurance industry bought the office of Insurance Commissioner, and we got Chuck Quackenbush, higher auto and home insurance rates, illegal surcharges, and insurance companies avoided billions in penalties for failing to pay claims. This went on until Quackenbush was caught and forced to resign. Now the insurance industry is trying to fool the voters by laundering money through a Sacramento PAC. The insurance industry’s attempt to elect Mike Villines will destroy the integrity and independence of the insurance commissioner’s office.”
The industry donations – which also include $250,000 from Allstate, $100,000 from Farmers and $125,000 from Liberty Mutual – went to California Chamber of Commerce JobsPAC, which spent $280,000 last week producing ads attacking insurance commissioner candidate Dave Jones. Progressive Insurance gave $90,000 in late September.
Since September 27, insurance companies and executives have given $1.2 million to the Chamber political committee. Consumer advocates say the donations are likely a down payment on a multi-million dollar ad campaign the Chamber is running on the insurance industry’s behalf. Because the public has been skeptical of any candidate associated with insurance money since the 2000 scandal involving former commissioner Quackenbush, the industry is funneling money through JobsPAC, Consumer Watchdog said. Advertisements paid for by JobsPAC won’t reveal the insurance money actually behind the ads.
“The insurance companies are funding attack ads that look like they don’t have any insurance company fingerprints on them,” said Doug Heller, Executive Director of Consumer Watchdog. “Whether its health, car or homeowners insurance, the next commissioner will play a huge in role in determining what kind of coverage we get and how much it costs, and insurance companies like Anthem Blue Cross will put up big money to get the regulator they want.”
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Consumer Watchdog is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that does not support or oppose candidates for election. Since the resignation of former Commissioner Quackenbush, Consumer Watchdog has reported on insurance industry money involved in electing the commissioner using its "Quack-O-Meter" to expose the industry’s level of influence in the race. http://www.ConsumerWatchdog.org