Referring to his recent troubles, California Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush called it “unfortunate” that his is an elected post, last Friday. The Commissioner, who has twice been elected to the office, told the Associated Press that he has long favored making the commissioner’s job an appointed one. Commissioner Quackenbush is embroiled in the “Insurancegate” scandal, in which he protected insurance companies from massive penalties in exchange for contributions to a private foundation created by Quackenbush and donations to his political campaign committee.
“Hopefully, the Legislature will not adopt Quackenbush‘s remedy for his own corruption,” said Doug Heller, a consumer advocate with the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR). “It would be a terrible twist to this scandal if the voters get punished for Quackenbush‘s behavior.”
California voters made the Insurance Commissioner an elected post as part of the 1988 insurance reform, Proposition 103. Prior to 103, the post was appointed by the governor and was filled almost exclusively by insurance industry insiders, most of whom, such as the last appointed Commissioner, Roxani Gillespie, went back to work for the insurance industry when their term ended.
“Imagine television ads, sponsored by “Californians for Clean Politics,” accusing the elected Insurance Commissioner of being bought and paid for by the insurance companies, and urging that it become an appointed post. In fact, the ads will be financed by the insurance companies themselves,” said Harvey Rosenfield, President of FTCR and author of Proposition 103. ” Making the commissioner an appointed position now would simply reward the insurers for having corrupted the office. They would have just as much pernicious influence as they do today, only the money trail would be harder to follow: their donations would go to the Governor, who would then appoint an insurance executive loyal to the industry. This occurred routinely prior to 103.”