Consumer Group Says AG Brown Should Appoint Independent Counsel In Insurance Matter

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The consumer advocacy group which charged state Attorney General Jerry Brown caved into pressure from a major insurance firm in rewriting a ballot measure summary has now called on Brown’s office to appoint an independent counsel in the case.

Consumer Watchdog, headed by attorney Harvey Rosenfield, said in a letter to Brown today that he believes the AG’s office has been "deficient" in its response to the organization’s recent public records act request; the request called for documents detailing the extent of the AG office’s communications with Mercury General, a major insurance firm — and a past campaign donor to Brown.

Christine Gasparac, spokeswoman for Brown’s office, said she had not seen the Consumer Watchdog letter and could not comment until the office had a chance to examine its contents. But the AG’s office has insisted it acted fairly and properly in producing the ballot title and summary for the insurance measure expected to be before voters on the ballot next year.

But Rosenfield, in his letter today, said that in the AG’s response to his organization’s public records requests on its dealings with Mercury were incomplete. "Your office provided us virtually no documentation of its communications with Mercury or its partisans,” he said.

Because of "the dramatic and unjustified change in the title and summary prepared by your office… we believe the best course would be to delegate the task of researching and responding to our request to an independent counsel,” Rosenfield said.

Rosenfield, the author of Prop. 103, a landmark consumer protection insurance measure, charged last week that Brown’s office engaged in "shameful" behavior in approving a new ballot title and summary for the potentially controversial upcoming ballot measure; he said it had been revised and failed to mention the possibilility of new insurance hikes.

Brown’s chief deputy attorney general James Humes said last week that that changes in the ballot title and summary were a fair reflection of changes in the wording of the actual initiative. Representatives of the AG’s office said they met with both the insurance firm and consumer representatives before crafting the summary.

Signatures have begun being collected for the measure known as the Continuous Coverage Auto Insurance Discount Act; it would go before voters next year if it receives the required number of signatures.

The measure, which would allow insurers to consider a driver’s history of insurance coverage when setting rates, is backed by Mercury General.

Consumer Watchdog
Consumer Watchdog
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