$25K from State Farm Departs from Company’s Prior Refusal to Donate to Politicians
Santa Monica, CA — Governor Schwarzenegger has reported raising $512,500 in new campaign contributions in the last two weeks leading up to today’s high-priced fundraiser at his Brentwood mansion. The contributions include a $25,000 gift from State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Company that could allow the insurer to attend tonight’s soiree, but breaks the company’s long-standing practice of not giving to politicians.
The company policy was explained last December by a lobbyist in the company’s Florida branch: “The money belongs to the policyholder. They don’t believe it is appropriate to pick sides” in campaigns.
Though many State Farm executives and agents have donated to Schwarzenegger in their personal capacity, this is the first corporate contribution to a candidate in California by the nation’s largest insurance company.
State Farm‘s contribution went to Schwarzenegger’s California Recovery Team, a general purpose committee, which “exists to help the Governor accomplish his ambitious legislative and issue agenda.” The committee is not dedicated to the support of specific ballot measures, and has been known to pay for Schwarzenegger’s travel and other expenses.
A cocktail reception fundraiser for Schwarzenegger’s committee is scheduled for this evening at the governor’s Brentwood home. If given for tonight’s event, State Farm‘s $25,000 contribution places it at the Silver level and earns a spot on the Recovery Team “Advisory Council,” including four private meetings with Schwarzenegger and “regular conference calls with the Governor and leading and well-known Californians from the public and private sectors.”
“Perhaps State Farm was compelled to break its long-standing policy against donating to politicians because none has ever offered such a direct trade of campaign cash for political access. $25,000 for a year of in-person meetings with the governor and insider phone calls must have seemed like too good a deal to pass up,” said Carmen Balber with the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. “But State Farm is spending policyholder money to buy that access. The insurer should ask the governor to refund the money, and recommit to its no-contribution promise.”
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance, which made the $25,000 contribution to Schwarzenegger’s committee, has not made a major donation in California since 2000 when it helped place two referenda Propositions 30 and 31 on the March 2000 ballot. State Farm‘s affiliate organization, State Farm Insurance Companies, has not donated to any individual candidates in California though it has contributed to initiative campaigns in recent years, including opposition to public financing of political campaigns and a measure to restrict public interest groups’ legal right to hold corporate wrongdoers accountable.
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