Prop 17 Opponents Use Fools Day Spoof to Mock Mercury Insurance, Industry-Funded Initiative

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Using April Fool’s Day to its full political advantage, the Consumer
Watchdog-funded (a Campaign for Consumer Rights effort)
has launched a clever,
tongue-in-cheek video
to mock the premise and talking points of the
Mercury auto insurer’s ballot initiative.

Few would argue that the Watchdog’s represents
out-funded opponents of the California proposition being financed
primarily with the deep corporate pockets of Mercury, but what the
Consumer Watchdog project might lack in financial resources, their April
first launch suggests they make up at least some political ground with
wit and ingenuity.

Throughout the organization’s two-minute spoof, actors portraying
California voters appear momentarily stoic while a hard-selling Mercury
Auto insurance representative explains why his company has spent $3.5
million dollars to qualify the initiative, “and millions more to fund
the Prop 17 campaign,” while claiming it won’t profit from its passage.
“It’s just because we like you,” surmises the Mercury rep. But before he
can reach the end of his sentence voters burst into laughter,
apparently having caught on to this Fool’s day’s political joke.

Opponents are using April First to make light of Mercury’s
implausible explanation for the initiative they wrote, paid to qualify
and are spending millions to pass, but the industry cash behind Prop 17
is no laughing matter.

According to the Secretary of State’s archives concerning the
measure, Mercury Insurance is Proposition 17’s primary sponsor, having
paid National Petition Management $2.375 million to collect the
necessary signatures to qualify the measure for the state’s June ballot.
Through mid-February, Mercury Insurance remained responsible for about
98% of the funding for the “Yes on 17″ campaign, having contributed
about $3.5 million already, but should voters approve the measure it
would afford the same opportunity for profit to all California insurance

And no other state offers as much potential for profit as the
insurance market of the Golden State.

California has more than 23.7 million licensed drivers who
collectively pay several billion dollars in auto insurance premiums
annually, making the state the industry’s largest consumer market.

Currently 80 percent of California drivers maintain continuous auto
insurance consistently, which would allow them to qualify for the
industry’s “persistency discount,” one of the insidious consumer markers
devised to allow rate increasing by insurers.

However, about 20 percent of California’s drivers fall into the
higher premium category of drivers who have had lapses in their
insurance coverage, and its these consumers Mercury seeks to exploit
with passage of Prop 17, the so-called “Mercury Initiative.”

Mercury, through its Yes on Prop 17 ads will try to divide and
conquer California drivers by convincing the state’s electorate that
drivers with lapses in coverage are identical in definition to
persistently uninsured motorists, deadbeats who drive up the rates of
responsible citizens.

But Prop 17’s passage would affect anyone who let their premium
payment slip past its cancellation date or a host of other reasons. Prop
17 would allow insurers to require a driver remain insured from the day
he or she gets a license to their last day. Those who have an
unexpected job loss, experience a medical or other financial hardship,
or simply find one month they must choose between food, mortgage or
insurance premium, will find their financial troubles persist when
insurers raise their premium (in state’s where its legal insurance
premiums rise as much as 90 percent).

Veteran groups oppose Prop 17 because it doesn’t even allow U.S.
service men and women to suspend their insurance while overseas fighting
for their country. Should Prop 17 pass, active military and America’s
veterans will be one of the groups hit hardest by rate increases.

Los Angeles Times reporter, Michael Hiltzik, has called Proposition
17 ”essentially the latest attempt by Mercury (Insurance) to eviscerate
Prop 103,” which passed in 1988 providing the state an elected insurance
commissioner with the authority to approve insurance rates before they
reach consumers.

Insurers are specifically prohibited under Prop 103 from using the
absence of a prior policy as a factor in rate-setting.

Opponents point out that should Prop 17 become law, motorists facing
higher auto rates, along with military personnel, include unemployed
workers needing insurance to drive to work when they find a new job,
students needing insurance to commute to a summer job, people who
commuted by public transit needing insurance after getting a new job
that is only accessible by car, and motorists who dropped coverage when
recuperating from an illness or injury that prevented them from driving.

Opponents to Proposition 17 currently include Congressman and former
Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi, Consumers Union, Consumer
Federation of California, Vote Vets, California Federation of Teachers,
California Nurses Association, SEIU California State Council, and
Democratic Party Central Committees in Los Angeles, San Francisco and
San Mateo Counties. While Republican Party committees have so far not
opposed the pro-business, pro-insurance industry initiative, many
conservative-leaning military service members and veterans groups see
the initiative as an attack on those who serve their country, making
opposition to the measure bipartisan, though its mostly opposed by those
representing moderate, working class and lower income drivers.

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.

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