California Insurance Commissioner Candidate Steve Poizner's Claim He Has Not Received Insurance Company Money is Simply False
California Progress Report
By Frank D. Russo
Republican candidate for state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner has been making his pledge to not accept any campaign contributions from the insurance industry a centerpiece of his campaign. This is highlighted on his campaign website. In an "exclusive column penned by Steve Poizner" in the conservative FlashReport, he champions himself as a "Real Reformer." He states:
Because I’m not taking a dime of insurance company money, I won’t be taken in by any schemes that typically drive up insurance costs in California. …
Because I refuse to accept that money, I’m no one’s lap dog – my office will be home to the highest ethical standards, not the highest campaign bidder. I won’t merely be an industry watchdog, I intend to be a pit bull when it comes to pursuing fraud and abuse.
Aside from the initial skepticism that a Republican would be the best person to protect us from insurance companies, the biggest problem he has is that a campaign committee he controls has already received hundreds of thousands of insurance company contributions, some direct and some through other committees that they have contributed heavily to. And at least one of the checks he received from Fireman's Insurance Fund is strikingly similar to a later sent to one of the State Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committees and then apparently bundled and given to this committee he controlled.
Here's a bit of the history. Mr. Poizner is a multimillionaire. By some accounts, he is a billionaire. He ran for the State Assembly in 2004, his first try for public office and put in $6 million of his own money in a losing bid to Democrat Ira Ruskin, who had to mortgage his own house to help start his campaign. For some of the details here, consider the column of A.G. Block, former editor of the California Journal, from the Capitol Weekly on October 6, 2005. That will give you a pretty good idea of money and how Poizner tried to make an issue of campaign fundraising in that try for office against someone who doesn't have his largesse. It should be read in full. But just a snippet here:
[T]he troubling part of Poizner's binge wasn't his wealth; it was his attitude about the more cosmic notion of money in politics. Midway through the election season, he began to fuss about Ruskin's fund raising, grousing that "plumbers in Fresno" -- among others -- were propping up the Democratic campaign. During several interviews with California Journal, Poizner insisted that it was inappropriate for "outside special interests" to influence an election in the 21st Assembly District. It was as though Poizner -- mouth stuffed with lobster thermador -- was annoyed that his hollow-eyed opponent begged scraps outside the window of Poizner's private buffet.
The question that he could not or would not answer was how any candidate short of Gordon Gekko could compete against an opponent with the personal resources of a Steve Poizner? Ruskin had mortgaged his small home to jumpstart his primary. Wasn't he now forced to seek help wherever he could find it because Poizner had raised the financial bar well beyond the reach of an ordinary citizen?
At the time of the Block article in 2005, Poizner had been chosen by Governor Schwarzenegger to lead a new campaign committee to promote Proposition 77, the redistricting measure that failed in the special election. The committee he headed is known as "REDISTRICT CALIFORNIA - YES ON 77, WITH MAJOR FUNDING PROVIDED BY STEVE POIZNER, POIZNER FOR INSURANCE COMMISSIONER & CALBUSPAC." That's a mouthful, but it reflects the fact that at the time he was an announced candidate for insurance commissioner in 2006 and was controlling this committee. The records for this committee are on file with the Secretary of State's office.
For the 10/23/05 through 12/31/05 filing period, these Secretary of State records show Poizner funneled over $200,000 from insurance companies, as follows:
A check for $402,000 from the CALBUSPAC, the Chamber of Commerce PAC that contained $140,000 of insurance money. The check is dated November 1, 2005. Another check on November 3, 2005 of $75,000.
Poizner received a check for $25,000 from Fireman's Fund on September 20, 2005, but returned it on September 24, 2005. On November 2, 2005, two insurance contributions totaling $75,000 is deposited in the Chamber's PAC and the very next day $75,000 is given to Poizner's committee. Records of the CALBUSPAC show that on November 1, 2005, they received $25,000 from Fireman's Fund and on the next day, they received $50,000 from The Dentists Insurance Company.
If you follow the money in and out of the CALBUSPAC, they would not have been able to make the $402,000 check without the insurance company money donated to them. For the period July 1, 2005 through October 22, 2005, the CALBUSPAC received $150,000 in contributions from Farmer's Group (on September 27, 2005) and that $25,000 from Fireman's fund on October 17, 2005. The ended that reporting period with $164,152.39 cash on hand.
Between October 23, 2005 and November 1, 2005, they received $207,700 in non insurance contributions and $90,200 of insurance contributions, including $50,000 from Farmers Group, $50,000 from State Farm, $15,000 from Aetna, $45,000 in two checks from the American Insurance Association, and the previously mentioned contributions from Fireman's Fund and The Dentists Insurance Company.
During the Yes on 77 campaign, while a declared candidate for Insurance Commissioner, ads blanketed the air showing Steve Poizner addressing the audience after "ordinary citizens" spoke. The Orange County Register on November 3, 2005 stated: "While Poizner portrays himself as an advocate of political reform, critics accuse him of championing Prop. 77 to promote his political career. Poizner, 48, appeared in Yes on 77 TV ads, before the campaign began running newer spots featuring Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz."
If you have any more questions about this, take it directly from the insurance industry themselves. In an article in Insurance Brokers and Agents of the West, "Weekly Insider," "POIZNER TO HEAD PUSH FOR REDISTRICTING REFORM," on September 16, 2005, they state:
According to AP, Mundell announced plans to form an independent, nonpartisan campaign supporting Proposition 77 — largely over fears the measure will fail if tied directly to Schwarzenegger's other Republican-backed ballot initiatives.
On the same day, the governor’s California Recovery Team announced the selection of Poizner. …
The Workers’ Comp Executive reported that Poizner’s appointment will raise his name identification with voters and basically assure his victory in the GOP primary.
Then there's the problem with the court case Californians for Fair Representation—No on 77 v. Schwarzenegger in which the court found that "Real party in interest Redistrict—Yes on 77 is a committee primarily formed to support Proposition 77 and is controlled by real party in interest Steve Poizner, a candidate for State Insurance Commissioner."
The Court went on to find that the $1,750,000 in contributions from Schwarzenegger's California Recovery Team to the Poizner Committee should have been reported as an independent expenditure. That little bit of non reporting, and the subterfuge it was part of, led to the $200,000 fine Schwarzenegger agreed to pay to the Fair Political Practices Commission.
The so called California Recovery Team account controlled by Schwarzenegger is the repository of hundreds of thousands of insurance company dollars. That is a story for another day. Bottom line for this story: There is a lot of money floating around that goes in and out of various committees, whether it is from the Governor or one of his committees or the Chamber of Commerce or other sources. There's a lot of insurance money here and anyone who pretends there isn't, is not being truthful. Come on Poizner, admit it and get real. Don't act like Captain Louis Renault in Casablanca who said "I'm shocked, shocked to find there is gambling going on here."?
There's also a lot of mutual back scratching gong on there. As recently reported in the Orange County Blog, the Governor and Poizner are now doing joint fundraising. It may not be until after the election that we can trace where all the money is coming from in all those efforts. I'll betcha dollars to donuts that there is insurance industry money heavily on Poizner's side, perhaps as "independent expenditures" before it's all over.
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