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San Francisco Examiner
May 19, 2000
Dump Quack and the Moolah
Examiner EditorialReforming the office of state insurance commissioner doesn't mean turning the elected post back into an appointed one.
Two things are needed to restore confidence in the state's beleaguered Department of Insurance.
The first is for Chuck Quackenbush to resign as insurance commissioner. His administration is irretrievably tarred with scandal, and Quackenbush has no good answers.
One example: He can't explain how he managed to collect millions of dollars from insurers, for their failure to pay claims in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, but returned not a dime to the quake victims.
The second thing that needs to happen is to prohibit candidates for insurance commissioner from taking campaign contributions from the corporations they regulate, the insurance companies. This ought to be a no-brainer, but proposed legislation several years ago was defeated.
Quackenbush started his electoral quest sixyears ago by declining insurance money. That was in the primary. By the time the general election campaign rolled around, he had become a money machine, vacuuming contributions from any source. In that campaign and in his re-election effort in 1998, he collected millions of dollars from companies he regulates.
That's not just an appearance of conflict, it's a real conflict of interest.
Now, we know that many in Sacramento think Part II of restoring trust in the insurance commissioner is making the post, once again, appointive. State Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, is the author of a constitutional amendment to require that after Quackenbush's term expires in 2003.
That legislation, SCA 19, was approved Wednesday by the Senate Election and Reapportionment Committee. It must be approved by a two-thirds vote of both the Assembly and the Senate before it is placed on the statewide ballot as soon as November.
Before 1990, the state's insurance commissioners were appointed by the governor. That was a disaster for consumers. It shouldn't be repeated. But neither should we tolerate a commissioner whose election to office is paid for by the companies he's supposed to regulate.
Get rid of Quackenbush and get rid of the insurance money.
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