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Riverside Press-Enterprise
Jun 14, 2000

Time to speak the 'I' word

Press-Enterprise Editorial
At this point, it would be foolhardy to predict that we've heard all we are going to hear about Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush. To the contrary, it's virtually certain that more information will become available. (These kind of stories about these kind of people almost always produce more.) But it is safe to say that enough has been heard to conclude that it is time to begin the process of removing him from office.

That should be the conclusion of the Assembly Insurance Committee when it finishes its fact-finding hearings in a few weeks. The Assembly should then get its Judiciary Committee working on impeachment as soon as possible thereafter, with a view toward completing the entire legislative task, one way or another, by the end of the year.

Of course, the simpler way would be for Mr. Quackenbush to resign, so that the state doesn't have to figure out how to do something it hasn't done in about 150 years -- impeach a constitutional officer. But one way or another, he should leave office.

That's because the evidence is becoming firmer and firmer that Mr. Quackenbush took what was arguably a state asset, proposed fines against insurers for mishandling Northridge earthquakes claims, and used them to foster his political career. Nearly $ 13 million in charitable contributions were raised from insurers and placed in private foundations; much of it was ultimately spent on self-promoting TV advertising. No money made it to a quake victim.

In short, the foundations functioned as campaign committees, as testimony from insiders showed, paying for such things as an image-assessment poll. (Although with an allegation of forgery, one foundation may have been worse than all but a few campaign (committees.) And, the man closest to Mr. Quackenbush, George Grays, hasn't even spoken publicly yet, although he is said to be talkinto Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer's representatives.

Yes, preparations should be made for Mr. Quackenbush's removal rom office, but those preparations need not include any deal-making -- such as immunity from criminal prosecution in exchange for a resignation. Mr. Quackenbush has earned official consideration of his removal from office. No inducements are needed.

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