Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Prop. 17-Republican Connection

Robert Gammon —  Tue, Jun 8, 2010 at 12:58 PM

Proposition 17, the statewide initiative sponsored and bankrolled by Mercury Insurance Company, would allow car insurers to charge higher rates to low-income drivers who have allowed their insurance to lapse. But the committee backing the measure also is spending money trying to elect Republicans around California.

According to the latest campaign finance records, the Yes on 17 campaign has helped finance at least seven Republican voter guides, most of them in Southern California. The GOP guides include “Continuing the Republican Revolution,” “Republican Woman’s Voice,” and “Orange County Republican Leadership Voters Guide.” In all, the Yes on 17 campaign has donated $35,000 to slate mailers that are helping elect Republicans today.

And like the PG&E backed Prop. 16, the Yes on 17 campaign includes its share of disingenuousness. For starters, the campaign bills itself as “Californians for Fair Auto Insurance Rates,” but in reality, the only “Californian” who has donated any significant amount of money to the campaign is Mercury Insurance. The state’s third largest auto insurer has donated $13.84 million to the campaign — representing 99.5 percent of the donations received, according to the latest campaign finance reports. In all, the campaign has received $13.91 million in donations.

The Yes on 17 campaign also contends that the initiative will benefit insurers and motorists alike because it will allow insurance companies to give “discounts” to drivers who have maintained their insurance coverage and want to switch to a new insurance company. However, the state’s other auto insurers apparently don’t agree, because none of them has donated money to Prop. 17.

The truth is Prop. 17 is about Mercury Insurance’s attempt to circumvent existing California law in order to gain more customers by offering them “discounts,” so it can increase market share. In that way, Prop. 17 is much like Prop. 16 in that they’re both sponsored and financed by large corporations who have decided to use California’s proposition system to increase or maintain their own profits.

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