Consumer Watchdog Campaign: Mercury Insurance Billionaire Adds $8M to Fund Prop 33’s Deceptive TV Ads That Lie to Voters and Don’t Disclose Paid Spokespeople Posing as “Real Drivers”

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Santa Monica, CA – George Joseph, the billionaire chairman of Mercury Insurance Co. and backer of the Prop 33 campaign gave another $8 million to the initiative this weekend, bringing his total spending on the measure to $16,422,126. Prop 33 will allow insurance companies to raise car insurance rates on good drivers who have a break in their coverage for almost any reason, even if they weren’t driving.

Deceptive TV ads in support of Prop 33 began running last week, featuring two women posing as real drivers who do not disclose that they are paid spokespeople. The women work for the PR consultant that has been paid $557,000 to run the Prop 33 campaign.

View the “Consumer Alert” video exposing the lies in the Prop 33 TV ads here:

Joseph’s Mercury Insurance Company spent $16 million on a nearly identical ballot measure two years ago, Prop 17, that was rejected by voters at the ballot in 2010.

“Insurance mogul George Joseph has doubled down on his bet that deceptive TV ads can hide the truth about Prop 33 – that it will raise insurance rates on good drivers,” said Carmen Balber with Consumer Watchdog Campaign. “This isn’t the first time this insurance billionaire spent $16 million in an attempt to benefit his insurance company at the expense of good drivers. Just two years ago, Joseph’s Mercury Insurance spent the same amount of money to place the nearly identical Prop 17 on the ballot. That time, Californians saw through the insurance company’s lies. This is the same initiative, the same insurance company and the same surcharge. Voters now have the chance to tell this insurance billionaire ‘no means no’ once and for all.”

In a “Rainmakers” report released last week, the Center for Investigative Reporting ranked George Joseph as the largest individual donor in California politics in 2011, and number 24 over the last 11 years. Mercury Insurance was the 14th largest organizational donor.

The Prop 33 TV ads also claim that the initiative “rewards consumers for being responsible.” In fact, Prop 33 would allow insurance companies to raise prices on responsible consumers who choose to stop driving for legitimate reasons, even if they have a perfect driving record. The Californians targeted for higher rates by Proposition 33 include:

·      Graduating students entering the workforce;

·      Foreign service workers and veterans;

·      People who dropped their coverage while recuperating from a serious illness or injury that kept them off the road;

·      Californians who previously used mass-transit;

·      People who give up their car for a time; and,

·      The long-term unemployed.

Nearly every newspaper editorial board in the state, including the Los Angeles Times, San Diego Union-Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle and Sacramento Bee, has urged a no vote on Prop 33. View the editorials:

Prop 33 would roll back a consumer and civil rights protection that has been on the books in California for 24 years, Proposition 103, and reinstate an insurance industry practice that prevented many low-income and minority drivers from obtaining auto insurance. Raising the price of insurance will make it even harder for drivers to get insured, said Balber, which means higher auto insurance costs for everyone because uninsured motorist premiums will rise.

For more information on Prop 33 visit

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Carmen Balber
Carmen Balber
Consumer Watchdog executive director Carmen Balber has been with the organization for nearly two decades. She spent four years directing the group’s Washington, D.C. office where she advocated for key health insurance market reforms that were ultimately enacted into law as part of the Affordable Care Act.

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