Jerry Brown Accused Of Caving In To Donor

Published on

San Francisco, CA — A leading California consumer advocate charged Wednesday that Attorney General Jerry Brown caved to pressure from a powerful insurance company – and campaign donor – when he reworked the summary of a ballot measure
to omit mention that it could boost premiums for thousands of drivers.

Harvey Rosenfield, founder of Consumer and author of
Proposition 103, the landmark measure protecting insurance consumers
that voters approved in 1988, said Brown’s office engaged in "shameful"
behavior by approving a new summary for the ballot measure.

The measure, which would allow insurers to consider a driver’s
history of insurance coverage when setting rates, is backed by Mercury
General, which in June donated $13,000 to Brown’s campaign for attorney
general, according to campaign records on file at the Secretary of
State’s Web site.

Brown has since formed an exploratory committee to run for governor.

Brown spokesman Scott Gerber called the claim that the attorney
general had yielded to political pressure from Mercury "utterly
ridiculous." The summary was rewritten, he said, because sponsors of
the measure made substantial changes to it. The new summary is a fair
and accurate description of the measure, Gerber said.

James Humes, chief deputy attorney general, said that even after
careful and extensive research on the voter pamphlet wording, "a lot of
experts in the field couldn’t agree on what the consequences (of the
new measure) would be. No matter what we did, someone was going to be
unhappy with it."

Signatures will begin being collected this week 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

Rosenfield said there were no substantive changes to the legislation that would have required rewording the summary.

"I have rarely seen political cowardice on this level from a seasoned public official," he said.

The criticism of Brown from a leading consumer group comes about
seven months before the 2010 Democratic gubernatorial primary in which
Brown, a former two-term governor, is the overwhelming favorite. Brown,
opposed by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, has pointed to his record
for being tough on consumer enforcement issues.

Rosenfield said the original ballot summary approved by Brown’s
office in August said the measure would allow insurers to lower – or
raise – premiums if a driver had a lapse in insurance coverage. In the
most recent version, "magically, only ‘discounts’ are mentioned,"
Rosenfield said. Other consumer advocates said the new summary
accurately reflects changes in the measure.

"We filed a new measure and the AG drafted a new title and summary
because we made key changes" to the measure, said Kathy Fairbanks of
Californians for Fair Auto Insurance Rates, a coalition of consumer and
business groups that includes Mercury.

The groups "want to better be able to compete with some of the
bigger players … and to do that, they have to lower prices and offer
better services."

Jim Conran, former director of the California Department of Consumer
Affairs under Gov. Pete Wilson and head of a group called Consumers
First, said the measure benefits all consumers because it "ensures all
drivers who maintain their automobile insurance coverage" are eligible
for discounts.


E-mail Carla Marinucci at [email protected].

Consumer Watchdog
Consumer Watchdog
Providing an effective voice for American consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Non-partisan.

Latest Videos

Latest Releases

In The News

Latest Report

Support Consumer Watchdog

Subscribe to our newsletter

To be updated with all the latest news, press releases and special reports.

More Releases