Insurance industry may be backing candidate

October 28, 2010 7:11:16 PM PDT
There are accusations that the insurance industry is secretly funding a campaign to help elect its preferred candidate for insurance commissioner. It is a complicated paper trail that 7 On Your Side has been looking into.

The insurance commissioner is important to consumers; he or she decides what people will pay for auto and homeowners insurance. That person also decides how much profit insurance companies will be allowed to make. With so much at stake for the industry, plenty of insurance money is flowing into the insurance commissioner race.

The small print on one political ad is difficult to read on a YouTube copy, but it says the ad was "paid for by JobsPAC."

"It is immoral, it is a deceptive campaign, it is voter fraud because those ads don't disclose who is really paying for them," says Harvey Rosenfield, the chairman of the Campaign for Consumer Rights.

Rosenfield says the industry should be upfront and admit it paid for the ads and that although JobsPAC is sponsored by the California Chamber of Commerce, most of the funding for these commercials, he says, is coming from the insurance industry itself.

"If you follow the money, it goes from the insurance companies right through the laundry machine at the Chamber of Commerce, into those ads supporting the insurance industries preferred candidate for insurance commissioner," says Rosenfield.

We asked the chamber to comment on the commercials and who's paying for them. It declined, and instead sent an email which reads in part, "All contributions to JobsPAC are reportable and can be found on the Secretary of State's website."

So we checked. Since late September JobsPAC has spent $3,814,785 on this year's insurance commissioner race.

According to the Campaign For Consumer Rights, and our 7 On Your Side spot check seems to confirm- JobsPAC raised $3,806,000 from insurance industry groups, companies and executives during that same time period.

We asked the candidates themselves on Thursday for comment.

"With JobsPAC I can't speak to where that money goes and how it works, and frankly I don't know, nor does anyone else. But with JobsPAC, in general, the Chamber of Commerce supports someone like me who was a business owner," says Mike Villines, the Republican Insurance commissioner candidate.

"The insurance industry has spent $5.7 million to elect my opponent. They are trying to buy this office for my opponent," says Dave Jones, the Democratic Insurance Commissioner Candidate.

While it may seem cozy, there is no indication of any legal wrong doing. We contacted every insurance organization found listed as a donor. Those we connected with by the time this story aired referred us to the chamber or said they follow all election laws.


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