Consumer Watchdog Campaign: Will Insurance Exec Backing Prop 33 Show His Face At Legislative Hearing Next Week?

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Santa Monica, CA – Consumer advocates demanded in a letter sent today that Mercury Insurance chairman George Joseph, who has contributed 99% of the funds backing Proposition 33, testify at a legislative hearing scheduled in Sacramento next Tuesday to publicly explain the benefit to his insurance company of the measure that would increase insurance rates on good drivers.

Joseph gave $8.5 million to the campaign for Proposition 33, and spent $16 million on the nearly identical Proposition 17 in 2010. Prop 33 would allow insurance companies to surcharge Californians who have a lapse in their auto insurance, even if they stopped driving because they couldn’t afford insurance or didn’t have a car. Joseph refused to testify on Prop 17, and has yet to defend his support for Proposition 33 in a public forum.

“We call on you to answer publicly questions that have been raised about the impact of Prop 33 on drivers with perfect driving records who will be penalized under the measure, and on your insurance company’s bottom line,” wrote Consumer Watchdog and the Consumer Federation of California. “If you want to make public policy in this state, you owe Californians and their elected officials the right to question you about your intentions. Do you have the courage to appear and justify your positions? We ask you to take this step and engage in a real debate.”

Download the letter here:

“Tuesday’s legislative hearing on Prop 33 is an opportunity for voters to hear the truth. But rather than appear yourself you have sent two paid messengers. The Greenlining Institute has received $195,000 from you specifically to support Prop 33 according to state disclosure reports. Mike D’Arelli’s Agents Alliance has long been sponsored by Mercury Insurance and is comprised primarily of Mercury agents,” noted the letter. “It’s time to stop hiding behind paid spokespeople and deceptive advertising and speak for yourself.”

The Los Angeles Times today editorialized against Prop 33, calling its predecessor “an ill-conceived ballot measure that would have allowed auto insurers to offer discounts to people who had been covered by competing companies, but which would have done so at the expense of new drivers, and those who let their coverage lapse. … It was a bad idea two years ago; it’s a bad idea now.”

Read the Los Angeles Times editorial:,0,657143.story

Proposition 33 targets Californians who stop driving for legitimate reasons, including:

  • 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; and,
  • The long-term unemployed.

Californians who choose not to drive for a time and do not need insurance would be surcharged when a new job, move or some other circumstance requires them to buy insurance again. Prop 33’s unfair penalty would punish drivers with premium surcharges that could reach $1,000 a year or more just because they took a hiatus from driving their automobile.

Consumer Watchdog and Consumer Federation of California are testifying in opposition to the measure at the legislative hearing on Proposition 33 in Sacramento scheduled for September 25, at 9:30 am.

For more information on Proposition 33 visit

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Stop the Insurance Industry Deception, No on 33, Sponsored by Consumer Watchdog Campaign.

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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