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Who’s funding whom for insurance commissioner?

By Josh Richman
Thursday, October 14th, 2010 at 3:51 pm in 2010 election, campaign finance, Dave Jones, Mike Villines.

Dave JonesThe campaign of Dave Jones, Sacramento Assemblyman and Democratic nominee for state insurance commissioner, today accused the insurance industry of stepping up its funding of his opponent, Republican nominee and Clovis Assemblyman Mike Villines.

Jones’ campaign issued a news release noting the JobsPAC put another $1,051,956 this week into an independent-expenditure campaign opposing Jones and backing Villines.

Actually, I think it’s exactly half that mount. JobsPAC’s disclosures in the Secretary of State’s database show an initial report of $525,958.50 in IE spending against Jones, and then an amended report of the exact same amount in IE spending for Villines, so I suspect that’s the real number. (You can see the initial and amended filings here.) Still not chump change, though.

(UPDATE @ 4:20 P.M.: Parke Skelton, Jones’ campaign consultant, insists the $1,051,956 figure is accurate, and that JobsPAC split it out 50 percent for Villines and 50 percent against Jones. He also says his ad time buyer confirmed almost $1.19 million in total independent expenditure ad buys by JobsPAC so far – in the LA, Sacramento, San Diego and Stockton markets – and he says the difference is probably that between gross and net costs.)

And either way, that’s atop $280,100 from JobsPAC last week, and a $2 million ad buy by the California Chamber of Commerce (which co-chairs JobsPAC) on Villines’ behalf three weeks ago.

Jones’ campaign notes the insurance companies have poured almost $1.3 million into JobsPAC since late September, including:

  • Health Net – $100,000 on Oct. 12
  • Allstate – $250,000 on Oct. 7
  • Anthem Blue Cross – $100,000 on Oct. 7
  • Liberty Mutual – $125,000 on Oct. 7
  • Mercury Insurance CEO George Joseph – $300,000 on Oct. 7
  • Farmers Employees & Agents PAC – $100,000 on Oct. 6
  • Mercury Insurance CEO George Joseph – $225,000 on Sept. 27
  • Progressive – $90,000 on Sept. 27
  • “This is obviously a ruse,” Jones’ consultant Parke Skelton said in the release. “JobsPAC is being used to hide the fact that insurance companies are trying to buy the office of Insurance Commissioner – they want to regulate themselves.”

    But Villines campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Gibbons says the campaign neither has coordinated with JobsPAC nor has any knowledge of their activities or contributors.

    Mike Villines“Dave Jones, on the other hand, has knowingly solicited campaign funds from a range of special interests whose issues and revenues are directly affected by the Department of Insurance,” she said, citing reports of fundraisers with lawyers and others connected to the insurance industry. “He has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from attorneys representing clients before the Commissioner of Insurance, and similarly has taken hundreds of thousands from health care interests he directly affected as Chair of the Assembly Health Committee and who he now wants to bring into the regulatory orbit of the Department of Insurance. Over his political career, Jones has raised over $1 million from attorneys and law firms alone.”

    Jones also has support from independent expenditure committees funded mostly by public employee unions and trade unions, which also have contributed directly to his campaign, Gibbons continued, accusing him of carrying the unions’ water by supporting a single-payer healthcare system.

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    • Ralph Hoffmann

      My Farmers Homeowner’s insurance premium has gone from $472.25 due 12/07, to $487.82 due 12/08, to $621.83 due 12/09, to $640.18 due 12/10.

    • curt

      San Francisco Chronicle recommends: Mike Villines

      San Francisco Chronicle October 1, 2010 04:00 AM

      Copyright San Francisco Chronicle.

      Friday, October 1, 2010

      Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/10/01/ED9N1FMBLS.DTL#ixzz12SyEV5bO

      Rare is the politician willing to risk his political career by making an excruciating compromise because he is convinced it is in the best interests of the state. One such example is Mike Villines, who was forced out as Republican Assembly leader because he dared to break party ranks by agreeing to taxes in a 2009 deal that closed a $42 billion deficit, averting fiscal catastrophe.

      Villines received a Profile in Courage award from the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, but gained the permanent enmity of factions within his party. He barely survived the GOP primary for insurance commissioner against a little-known opponent who spent less than $5,000.

      The fortitude to do the right thing against immense pressure is a pretty good credential for insurance commissioner, the state officeholder charged with regulating and approving rates for homeowner and auto insurance.

      Californians will be choosing between two capable and principled veteran state legislators on Nov. 2: Republican Villines, an Assembly member from Fresno County, and Democrat Dave Jones, an Assembly member from Sacramento.

      In some elections, this has been an easy call because one of the campaigns is openly bankrolled by the insurance industry. This year, both Villines and Jones have refused to accept industry-related contributions.

      Jones has tried to portray Villines as the industry candidate with the argument that past insurer contributions were included in the money the Republican nominee shifted from his legislative campaign account. It’s an unfair reach, especially in light of Villines’ record of independence. Also, it must be noted that Jones has received many contributions from trial lawyers, who are frequent adversaries of insurance companies and thus have an interest in state regulation.

      “I’m not beholden to anybody,” Villines said. He said he viewed the insurance commissioner as the “strongest consumer protection job in the state” and his priority would be to keep rates low and to attack the levels of fraud that are costing each Californian an average of $500 a year. One of his areas of focus would be holding down workers compensation rates, an area of immense concern to small businesses…

      …Villines, who opposed the Jones bill, said he was confident that with a system of greater transparency, “I can shame” health insurers into keeping rates reasonable.

      Villines has shown he can balance competing interests and is willing to take the heat for doing the right thing. In a close call between good choices, he gets our endorsement.

      Find out more at http://www.mikevillines.com & http://www.ilikemike.org

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