Party Gives Ins. Commissioner Candidate Double Amount It Gives Simon, And More Than All “Down-Ticket” Candidates Combined
Santa Monica, CA –Rumors that the insurance industry would try to influence the race for insurance commissioner by stealth appear to be true, according to new campaign reports filed late Friday. The California Republican Party transferred $1,166,000 to the campaign war chest of Republican Insurance Commissioner candidate Gary Mendoza since October 17, 2002, two days after a series of large insurance industry contributions to the Party.
Mercury Insurance, Farmers, Safeco and brokerage firm Elkins/Jones Insurance donated a combined $95,000 to the Party on October 16, 2002. Fireman’s Fund and Citigroup each contributed $10,000 to the party earlier this month. Prior to October, insurers had contributed over $129,000 to the California Republicans since the March primary, according to data available from the California Secretary of State. Mercury Insurance, the largest donor among insurers, gave $55,000 on October 16.
Insurance Industry Wants to Avoid the “Quack-O-Meter”
During the primary campaign, the nonpartisan Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) created the “Quack-O-Meter” — alluding to disgraced former commissioner Chuck Quackenbush — to measure the insurance industry’s attempt to corrupt the next insurance commissioner through campaign donations. The meter recorded insurance company contributions to candidates for the post. Insurance money is considered the “kiss of death” for any insurance commissioner candidate after Quackenbush, who received over $8 million from the industry and later resigned in the wake of a corruption scandal. For several years FTCR has pushed for legislation to ban insurance industry contributions to candidates for commissioner.
All candidates still in the race, including Mr. Mendoza, have pledged to refuse insurance industry contributions. Consumer advocates with FTCR said speculation that the insurance industry would direct money to Mendoza through the party had been rampant since the insurance industry’s candidate in the primary, Thomas Calderon, lost the race after the $1.5 million he took from the industry was widely reported in the media.
“We believe that the insurance industry is trying to avoid the scrutiny of the Quack-O-Meter, while using its money to pick the next insurance commissioner,” said consumer advocate Doug Heller of FTCR.
The Republican Party’s massive last-minute transfers to Mendoza surpass its total contributions to its candidate for Governor, Bill Simon. In one week, the Party has given Mendoza more than twice the amount it has given its gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon ($564,218) all year. The transfers to Mendoza are also larger than party contributions to all other “down ticket” statewide candidates combined.
Cal. Republican Party Contributions to Mendoza (10/18/02-10/25/02): $ 1,166,000
Party Contributions to Bill Simon (3/5/02-10/25/02): $ 580,218
Party Contributions to all other Statewide Candidates (3/5/02-10/25/02): $ 714,910
Insurance Contributions to Cal. Republican Party (3/5/02-10/25/02): $244,950
FTCR says that Mendoza should return that portion of his Republican Party contributions that are attributable to insurance industry contributions to the party, a total of $244,950 to date.