Insurance Initiative Contenders Wrangle Over Internet Addresses

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SACRAMENTO — Opponents of an auto insurance initiative on the November ballot are accusing supporters of violating state cyber-fraud laws by buying up all the addresses for potential yes and no Internet sites.

But the campaign for Proposition 33, waxing Shakespearean, said the complaints are "much ado about nothing."

The initiative would give California motorists a discount on their automobile insurance policies if they shift from one company to another, as long they've been continuously covered for at least five years. Such discounts currently only apply to customers who stick loyally to one insurer.

Such a change in law has been a decades-long goal of Mercury General Corp. Chairman George Joseph of Los Angeles.

Opponents, who have defeated earlier attempts by Joseph to change the law in the Legislature, the courts and the polls, denounce the initiative as a violation of Proposition 103, a 1988 auto insurance reform initiative.

Douglas Heller, the executive director of Consumer Watchdog, the Santa Monica activist group that passed Proposition 103, accuses Joseph and his group of buying up all of the potential campaign websites, including one called ""

"You correctly guessed that we intend to use as a website to combat this year's subterfuge," Heller wrote the Proposition 33 campaign. "But by purchasing the name in an attempt to prevent us from exercising our right to political speech, you have broken the law."

A spokeswoman for Proposition 33 dismissed the allegation as a "scare tactic."

Rachel Hooper stressed that her organization bought the domain names before the secretary of state announced which initiatives would get which numbers on the upcoming election.

Her organization intends to turn over Internet addresses that are not applicable to the "Yes on 33" campaign, she said.

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