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May 30, 2000
CONTACT: Doug Heller - 310-392-0522 x309
Quackenbush: Best Defense is Lawyer Offense
He Demands Records of Investigators and WatchdogsIn an apparent effort by Insurance Commissioner Quackenbush to escape removal from office, his lawyer has demanded that legislators turn over documents including the Market Conduct Examinations which Quackenbush himself has refused to turn over to consumer groups and legislators. Quackenbush also demanded communications from individuals -- principally legislators and their staff -- who have been investigating his misconduct in office. Also on Quackenbush's list is Harvey Rosenfield.
Consumer advocates likened Quackenbush's action to those of former President Richard Nixon and his lieutenants, who became obsessed with leaks as the Nixon presidency unraveled in the midst of the Watergate scandal.
They noted that Quackenbush has consistently refused to provide the public with critical documents requested under the state Public Records Act. Most recently, he rejected the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) request for the Market Conduct Examinations -- the intensive investigations of insurance companies prepared by his staff which uncovered massive violations of state laws governing insurance claims handling practices. The examinations would reveal whether Quackenbush acted properly in ignoring the $3.5 billion in fines and restitution proposed by his staff in favor of $12 million in donations to non-profits, which were then used to promote Mr. Quackenbush's personal and political activities.
"Quackenbush's 'enemies' list, his stonewalling of the public, his asking the CHP to investigate leaks from his agency, his effort to blame departed employees for his misconduct, and various other theatrics like running out of a legislative hearing aren't likely to intimidate legislators or deter law enforcement authorities from investigating him," said consumer advocate Harvey Rosenfield.
"Quackenbush's desperate effort to portray his troubles as 'political' isn't fooling anybody. Quackenbush has misused the powers of his office for personal gain. He and he alone is responsible for his misconduct in office. Quackenbush has betrayed the voters and will be brought to justice."
In a letter sent today, FTCR asked Thomas Hiltachk, the attorney who issued the request for documents, who has retained him for these services. Specifically, FTCR asked if Mr. Hiltachk, of the law firm Bell, McAndrews, Hitachk & Davidian, is employed by Mr. Quackenbush personally, is representing the California Department of Insurance or if he represents a third-party.
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