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Poizner sues to further Iran divestiture

California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner says he’s suing to challenge last month’s finding by the state’s administrative regulation watchdog that his efforts to stop insurers from investing in Iran amount to an “underground regulation.”

The Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit – in which Poizner is represented by state Attorney General (and Governor-elect) Jerry Brown – contests the California Office of Administrative Law determination – which had been sought by insurance companies – and seeks to clarify Poizner’s authority to address “insurer support of the Iranian terror regime and the solvency of insurer investment portfolios,” his office said in a news release.

“I intend to ensure that any insurance company licensed in California is not doing business, in any way, with the Iranian regime,” Poizner said in the release. “Insurance premium dollars that Californians pay should not end up supporting a regime that has shown time and time again its disregard for the concerns of the global community. The consensus is clear, as seen in the sanctions that the United Nations, the European Union, the U.S. government, and the California Legislature have imposed over the past two years — responsible businesses should not be doing business with Iran. Since companies doing business with Iran face financial risk, I have the authority to protect insurer portfolios from investments in those companies.”

Poizner’s release said recent statements by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates indicate divestment actions like this and other sanctions are “posing significant hurdles to the country’s ability to develop nuclear weapons.”

Poizner in June 2009 launched an initiative to identify Iran-related investments in the portfolios of insurers doing business in California, asking that the 1,300 insurers licensed here identify all investments in companies doing business with the Iranian nuclear, defense, and energy sectors. His department identified 50 companies, including the well-known corporations Royal Dutch Shell and Siemens, with ongoing business activities in Iran. This spring, Poizner requested a “moratorium,” calling on insurers not to make any new investments in companies on his list; more than 1,000 signed onto this moratorium.

Poizner’s release says financial reports that insurers file quarterly with his department show his initiative produced change: The insurance industry last year had invested nearly $1 billion in companies on his list, but that figure plummeted to $32 million in new investments during 2010’s second quarter of 2010, the first quarter in which the moratorium was in effect. The value of existing insurer investments in companies on the list declined by $337 million dollars in 2010, indicating that some insurers are moving beyond the moratorium and actually divesting Iran-related assets that had been acquired over the previous two decades.

“These numbers tell a promising story, both in the reduced involvement of California insurers in Iranian business activities and by demonstrating that insurers can drop companies on the Department’s list from their investment portfolios without adversely affecting their investment returns,” Poizner said.

UPDATE @ 4:14 P.M.: The Association of California Life and Health Insurance Companies, Association of California Insurance Companies, Personal Insurance Federation of California, American Insurance Association and American Council of Life Insurers just issued this joint statement:

“Our associations asked the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) to review the Department of Insurance’s directives on insurer investments because we believe that the department, just like all other state agencies, must obey the law.

“When the Department of Insurance adopts regulations, it must follow the requirements that the Legislature established in the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The OAL determined last month that the department should have followed the APA when the department issued its directives. We believe the OAL is correct.

“Our associations do not support or defend any insurer that makes investments that violate state or federal law, which prohibit investments in Iran and other terrorist regimes. We asked the OAL for a determination simply to resolve the issue of the Department of Insurance’s compliance with the APA.”

UPDATE @ 1:50 P.M. WEDNESDAY: OAL Director Susan Lapsley is not amused, according to a statement she issued in response to Poizner’s announcement. Read all about it, after the jump…
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Steve Poizner endorses Meg Whitman

California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, who lost this year’s Republican gubernatorial primary after a particularly expensive, often nasty battle with former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, today endorsed Whitman and the rest of the GOP ticket.

Not much of a surprise, really; in his concession speech, Poizner said he and his supporters “believe that our state’s last, best hope is to defeat Jerry Brown and reform Sacramento. If Meg Whitman runs on conservative principles, she deserves our full support.”

Today, Poizner – who earlier this year said Whitman lacked the “courage and values to stand up to illegal immigration;” knocked her as a chronic non-voter; accused her of taking “sweetheart deals” as a Goldman Sachs board member; and so on – issued a statement that isn’t particularly effusive about Whitman individually, but it gets the job done:

“As we begin the traditional Labor Day kickoff of the general election campaign, Californians know very well that our state is in severe crisis and that the decisions made next year will in many ways decide what kind of future our state will have.

“The choice between our Republican ticket and the Democrat ticket could not be more clear. From Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina to Damon Dunn and Mike Villines, our ticket offers a clear contrast to candidates nominated by the Democratic Party.

“Our ticket is led by successful business women who know that if there is to be a viable public sector, there must be a vibrant private sector. They know that the best, most reliable job is one created by the private sector. They understand that governments, like families and businesses, must live within their means.

“Too many of the Democratic Party nominees believe that the answer to all our state’s problems can be solved by larger government. But government isn’t the answer. It has had its chance, and it has failed miserably.

“California voters have a clear choice in November.

“Our Republican ticket is our state’s best hope to fix governmental systems that are clearly in need of a major overhaul. On Tuesday, November 2, 2010, please join me in supporting the entire Republican ticket. Our state deserves nothing less.”

UPDATE @ 2:35 P.M.: “I’m grateful to have the support of Commissioner Steve Poizner,” Whitman said in a statement issued this afternoon. “Steve and I have a shared belief that we must improve California’s business climate, cut government spending and fix the state’s public schools. I appreciate that Steve is backing my campaign, and look forward to winning the support of all Californians who share my vision for making our economy stronger and our government more accountable.”

And, from Sterling Clifford, spokesman for the campaign of Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jerry Brown: “Meg Whitman may find it easy to change with the political winds, but I guess Steve Poizner doesn’t. Poizner knows he was right about Meg Whitman the first time, and his tepid endorsement should give even committed Republicans second thoughts about their chronically dishonest candidate.”

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A musical primary post-mortem

When I’m having a good day, or sometimes when I’m down, I sometimes give myself a gift on the limited budget available to me as a reporter: a 99-cent splurge on new iTunes song for my iPod. And so as the primary election winners strut and the losers lick their wounds, here are a few suggestions for songs they might want to add to their playlists:

Meg Whitman, the billionaire former eBay CEO who spent $71.1 million out of her own pocket to buy the Republican gubernatorial nomination: “Money” by Pink Floyd, or “Killer Queen” by Queen

Steve Poizner, buried under Whitman’s $71.1 million and a 37-percentage-point deficit in the election results: “Wipeout” by the Surfaris

Chris Kelly, who spent $12 million out of pocket to lose the Democratic primary for Attorney General to San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris by 17 percentage points; PG&E President and CEO Peter Darbee, whose company spent $46.4 million on the unsuccessful Proposition 16; and Mercury Insurance Group President and CEO Gabriel Tirador, whose company spent $15.9 million on the unsuccessful Proposition 17: “Can’t Buy Me Love,” by the Beatles

Carly Fiorina, who as the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate has had the last laugh after people snickered at her “demon sheep” ad attacking rival Tom Campbell: “Sheep” by Pink Floyd

Abel Maldonado, the appointed incumbent who – despite winning the GOP’s nomination to try to keep the lieutenant governor’s office – knows his party wants him and needs him but there ain’t no way it’s ever gonna love him: “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad,” by Meat Loaf

Gavin Newsom, the San Francisco mayor who won the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor but might have his own words from 2008 on same-sex marriage come back to haunt him in November’s general election: “Like It Or Not,” by Madonna

Steve Cooley, the Los Angeles District Attorney who broke from California tradition by being a moderate capable of winning a Republican primary: “Middle of the Road,” by the Pretenders

Tom Torlakson, the Antioch Assemblyman who placed second and so will go to a November runoff – at which time he’s likely to pick up a lot of the Democratic votes that went yesterday to third-place finisher Gloria Romero, along with stronger Democratic turnout overall – against former school district superintendent Larry Aceves for state Superintendent of Public Instruction: “Time Is On My Side,” by the Rolling Stones

Mike Villines, the Clovis Assemblyman and former Assembly Republican Leader widely berated within the GOP for OKing a budget deal with tax hikes last year, who now is eight-tenths of a percentage point – 11,204 votes – behind political unknown Brian FitzGerald, an Insurance Department attorney from Napa who raised no money, in the GOP primary for Insurance Commissioner: “Living on the Edge” by Aerosmith

Brian FitzGerald, who might want to ask himself, “Well, how did I get here?” : “Once in a Lifetime,” by the Talking Heads

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Steve Poizner throws in the towel

… and Meg Whitman is the Republican nominee for governor of California.

Here’s what Poizner had to say tonight in Irvine:

Thank you all for being here.

It’s tough competing for airtime with the Los Angeles Lakers, so I appreciate that all of you are here with us tonight.

I am so grateful to have with me tonight the family I love: Carol, my wife of 22 years, and our daughter Rebecca.

They have been a constant source of support during this demanding campaign. And they have been—and always will be—my pride and joy.

During this campaign, I was gratified to have the support of great conservative leaders like Tom McClintock, George Deukmejian, and Jim Brulte.

All of you gathered in this room—and all of our supporters across California—should take pride in knowing that you were the heart and soul of this great cause.

Thank you for your unwavering support and steadfast commitment to conservative change.

A little while ago, I called Meg Whitman to congratulate her and to wish her well in her continuing campaign for governor.

I enjoyed our spirited debates and I hope we’ll get a chance to know each other better in the future.

Running for governor has been one of the greatest experiences of my life.

Even though we were outspent four-to-one, I know that this campaign was an overwhelming victory for our solutions, values, and ideals.

I believe that being a Republican must be about more than just winning an election.

When we surrender our ideals—and the principles we hold dear in the name of victory—that victory is hollow.

Our task is to press ahead, fighting for these conservative principles, to ensure that they prevail in the Fall.

Meg Whitman began this campaign as a skeptic of our conservative ideals.

We challenged her. And by the end, she embraced our positions on many issues.

Without our fight and your efforts, that never would have happened.

We believe in the urgent need to secure our borders, and vigorously fight any effort to grant amnesty to those who are here illegally.

We believe that broad-based tax relief will grow our economy and create the jobs that Californians so desperately need.

We believe that we should fight President Obama’s big-government takeover of our healthcare system.

We believe in driving the number of abortions to zero by ending all taxpayer funding of abortions.

We believe that our state’s last, best hope is to defeat Jerry Brown and reform Sacramento.

If Meg Whitman runs on conservative principles, she deserves our full support.

I am confident that California’s best days are still ahead of us.

I’ve seen it in entrepreneurs and small business owners—with the boldness and courage to pursue new ideas.

I’ve seen it in the men and women who lay their lives on the line each and every day to protect our state’s citizens.

And I’ve seen it in the moms and dads who want their kids to be the first in their families to go on to college.

We did not prevail today.

But that does not mean that our fight ends here.

We go forward boldly and confidently, secure in the conviction that only our conservative ideals can turn the tide.

Together, we can save California.

You know it.

I know it.

Let’s fight on!

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Jerry Brown launches his first campaign ad

California Attorney General and presumed Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jerry Brown launched his first campaign ad today, linking the contentious and expensive GOP primary to the state’s contentious and expensive bipartisan gridlock:

Matt Hirsch, the rapid-response director for Republican Steve Poizner’s campaign, fired off a statement dissing Brown’s ad:

“Just like Jerry Brown’s failed tenure as governor, this ad looks like it was produced in the late 1970’s. Steve Poizner has been offering specific plans to fix California for the past year, while Jerry Brown has sat on the sidelines coddling the unions that are bankrupting California. Voters are not looking to be led back down the broken path that Jerry Brown dragged them through 30 years ago, they are looking for a reformer and that is exactly what Steve Poizner will offer in November.”

I’ve not received anything from Meg Whitman’s camp yet.

Expect to see a lot of this from Brown as the year goes on. Polls show Whitman has regained her safe lead and is likely to prevail next Tuesday, but whether she or Poizner is the nominee, Brown will make the most of that person’s extensive self-funding; the extremely conservative stances he/she took in order to win the primary; and the adversarial, negative tone his/her campaign adopted in recent months. Brown – who didn’t have to lift a finger or spend much more than a dime in this primary – will be looking to position himself as the bipartisan healer.

UPDATE @ 2:38 P.M. TUESDAY: This just in from Whitman spokesman Tucker Bounds: “We got a kick out of Jerry’s latest stunt, which will never actually run on TV. It’s just too funny to see a 40-year Sacramento insider complain about the political climate he’s helped create. Jerry’s new blue sweater can’t cover up his record of fighting to defend the status quo in Sacramento.”

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Another dramatic momentum shift in GOP gubernatorial primary?

Mike Murphy, the chief strategist for Meg Whitman’s gubernatorial campaign, has been itching to release his own internal polling showing that his boss has resumed her dominance over her GOP rival, Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner.

Campaign sources say that, with two weeks left in the race, he may gather reporters real soon for a conference call trumpeting Whitman’s internal numbers, now that polls appear to be consistently going her way.

Last week, Murphy had downplayed the Public Policy Institute of California survey showing Poizner closing to within 9 percentage points, saying it hadn’t captured a mood shift that was breaking Whitman’s way big time — after she’d blown a 50 percentage-point lead.

A SurveyUSA poll, released Sunday night, gave glimpse to that apparent momentum shift, with Whitman stretching her lead from 2 percentage points to 27 (54 percent to 27).

The SurveyUSA poll, which critics don’t much like because of the robo-call, push-button mechanics, had more certainty than one commissioned by Daily Kos, which gave Whitman a 10 percentage point lead and had more undecided voters. Murphy said the SurveyUSA poll matched up with numbers he’s seeing in other private polls. Republican primary voters, he said, are returning to Whitman after giving her a second look.

“Every private track and our own internals are showing similar numbers, give or take 5 or 6 points,” he said. “To me, that’s a confirmation that things are moving our way.”

Murphy said that a number of factors have turned the momentum around. First, Democrats’ attacks on Whitman have backfired. “Republicans are starting to understand that Jerry Brown is doing everything he can to help Steve Poizner. That’s the wrong kind of endorsement.”

Murphy said he is convinced that the much-maligned ad of Whitman speaking directly to the camera and complaining about Poizner’s attacks worked.

“It worked like a charm,” Murphy said. “People are starved for information. They like ads when candidates talk to the camera. So we did 60 seconds to break through the clutter and push back on two things bothering voters the most” about Whitman’s campaign, which were her position on immigration and her past endorsement of U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer. Here it is:

Pivoting off that ad, the campaign put up new 30-second spots tearing into Poizner as a liberal, as seen here:

And the ads were supplemented by a heavy voter-to-voter contact effort — unanswered by Poizner: through the mail and by phone.

Poizner’s “one-note” campaign — hammering the anti-illegal immigrant issue (seen here:)

helped raise his profile, but “he hasn’t done anything” to fill out a larger picture of who he is and how he’d govern, Murphy said.

He noted that Poizner’s team, which  touted internal polls a couple weeks ago when it was riding a strong anti-Whitman wave, hasn’t been so loud about its internals lately.

Jarrod Agen, spokesman for Poizner, said that polls — internal and public — are showing “this race is much closer and that we’re within striking distance. The reality is it’s going to come down to the last two weeks and which candidate can convince more undecided voters.”

Poizner’s tough, bracing talk on illegal immigration is “cutting through” to voters and works better with primary voters than the establishment backing Whitman has played up, Agen said. Whitman on Monday released an ad with Mitt Romney, the former Republican presidential candidate (and her ex-boss), Condoleezza Rice, the former Secretary of State, and Jon Coupal, president of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, showing their support:

“We think that’s a huge error on their part, showing other establishment Republicans endorsing Meg,” Agen said. “Last week, we saw everybody who used that method lost (in primaries around the country). We’re in a cycle of changing the status quo, reforming the establishment. And Meg is running as the establishment candidate.”

Poizner’s team doesn’t plan on showing internals any time soon, but not because they lack for confidence, Agen said. “When we released them last time, we were in a gap when there weren’t any polls out and we wanted to show people that things were shifting. With the PPIC poll just out and others to come out, there’s no reason to release another poll.”

Unless you’re Mike Murphy, and you have another momentum shift you’d like to share.