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With a week to go before the Mississippi primary, incumbent Republican Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney had more than $60,000 on hand than challenger John Mosley.
Mosley, owner of Clinton Body Shop and a plaintiff in a lawsuit accusing auto insurers of steering and price-fixing, had raised $204,300 between Jan. 1 and Monday. His final campaign finance filing before the Aug. 4 race also indicated he had $35,338.59 in the bank. Chaney, who was elected in 2007, had raised $279,180 between Jan. 1 and Tuesday and had $98,959.88 on hand.
Campaign finance has been a hot-button issue in that primary and a nearby one in Louisiana.
Mosley and Louisiana body shop owner Matt Parker, who is challenging incumbent Republican Commissioner Jim Donelon in the Pelican State’s October primary, have vowed not to accept any insurance industry donations.
“To me, that’s just pure wrong,” Mosley said, according to a Wednesday report in the Gulfport, Miss., Sun Herald.
Parker in a statement criticized Donelon for taking insurance industry contributions, “and we, the consumers, pay for it every time we pay our insurance premiums,” KNOE reported in March.
Their stances raise the question of whether a regulator should take hundreds of thousands from the industry they’re charged with regulating.
The insurance industry has given at least nearly $6.88 million to successful insurance commissioner candidates over the past two decades, according to a Repairer Driven News analysis of contributions to sitting and former insurance commissioners (see chart here) from the National Institute on Money in State Politics’ “Follow the Money” database, Our study also used some information from Ballotpedia and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
Through the 2014 elections, the insurance industry has given $2.3 million to the eleven sitting elected insurance commissioners, including Chaney and Donelon. Of the sitting commissioners, Donelon had received the most from the insurance industry through his last election, raising more than $931,000 through 2011. Chaney was No. 5 through 2011 with $143,400.
State finance reports
A rough Repairer Driven News look at state campaign finance reports (see chart) for the candidates in the 2015 Mississippi and Louisiana races indicates Chaney and Donelon have raised thousands from the insurance industry again within this calendar year. (See raw financial PDFs for all four candidates at the bottom of this article.)
Chaney had at least $52,600 from insurance industry sources from Jan. 1-July 28, 2015, about 19.2 percent of the $279,180 he’s raised overall this year.
“There’s one big insurance company after another on there,” Mosley said in May of Chaney’s financial data. He also gave us a letter which indicates Chaney actively solicited contributions from insurance agents.
Donelon had collected at least $45,900 from insurance sources, about 18.3 percent of the $250,275 he’s collected this year as of mid-July. (Another fun fact: Based on volume of donors, the chiropractic industry loves Donelon.)
We reiterate that these 2015 insurance donations estimates are rough — as the records hadn’t been neatly classified and entered into the Follow the Money database by the institute’s gurus, we were forced to root through state financial documents and pick out those which appeared to be obvious insurance sources. (Mississippi doesn’t even provide Excel-ready downloadable data fields, just PDFs, which made our job even harder.) This means we might have missed a few individuals and businesses with ties to the industry.
But it still provides a good foundation to look at the issue.
The largest donors to Chaney were the Washington, D.C.-based Council of Insurance Agents PAC, at $2,500, and the Independent Insurance Agents of Mississippi and Amfed, at $2,000 each. They were followed by a long string of $1,000 donations by several of the nation’s largest auto insurers, including No. 2 GEICO and No. 4 Progressive — but not State Farm or Allstate. A couple of insurance families yielded separate $1,000 donations from subsidiaries; for example, Travelers Casualty and Surety, Travelers Indemnity, Travelers Property Casualty, Phoenix Insurance and Charter Oak Fire Insurance all gave $1,000.
Florida-based Anchor Insurance Managers gave the most to Donelon so far, at $5,000; followed by Louisiana Dealer Services Insurance at $3,000; Williams Progressive Life and Accident (There doesn’t seem to be a connection to the national Progressive brand.) at $2,750; and then a series of insurers at $2,500, including the Travelers Companies PAC, AFLAC and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana. (Quite frankly, health and home insurers probably have more at stake in Lousiana and Mississippi than auto insurance-focused companies given the serious weather events in those states and the complicated national health care world.)
We asked the Chaney campaign if he saw it as a conflict of interest to take the donations, what his response was to critics like Mosley, and if he recused himself from decisions on a contributor or their company.
“It’s completely legal to accept money from insurance agents,” Chaney campaign spokeswoman Beth Hamilton wrote in an email. “True, some people can be influenced by these donations but that’s not the case with commissioner Chaney. He is a man of honor and integrity. He is fair and has always been fair to consumers and businesses. It’s a balancing act and he balances it well.”
Neither Donelon’s agency nor campaign had responded as of post time Thursday.
Auto body support
We also did a similar look at auto body donations for Mosley and Parker, who have not forsworn donations from industries upon which they’d have an indirect effect if elected. (Decisions made by an insurance commissioner on auto insurance can trickle down to collision repairers — and probably have, judging by the frustration indicated by the two men’s entry into the race.)
The data also indicates the kind of support the two men have seen from their peers in the auto body industry and related sectors — both in their own states and nationally.
Mosley’s largest auto body donors (not counting his own self-funding or family members’ donations) all gave $1,000, though a series of such contributions by subsidiaries added up to at least $4,000 from the Herrin Gear family of dealerships in Mississippi. Overall, the automotive industry has given him about $14,300.
Parker has seen great support from the Louisiana Collision Industry Association, which gave him $5,000 in June. Other major donors include Body Works Collision Repair and Auto Body Specialist at $2,000.
Overall, automotive companies have given at least $24,000 to his campaign, nearly 35.5 percent of the $67,637.05 he’s raised between Jan. 1 and mid-July.
Parker had $26,636 on hand as of mid-July, while Donelon still had $542,788.17 in the bank.
See the raw financial reports here: