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Investigative La. blog covers ‘David v. Goliath’ body shop owner running against insurer-backed commissioner

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Business Practices | Insurance
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Investigative blog Louisiana Voice has scrutinized Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon’s thousands in donations from insurance companies in his race against a body shop owner.

“If ever there was a case to be made for prohibiting campaign contributions from industries and individuals the candidates would be regulating once in office, it would have be with the races for Louisiana Insurance Commissioner, Public Service Commission, and Louisiana Attorney General,” author Tom Aswell wrote in the Aug. 28 post. “An examination of contributions to candidates for those offices stands as the poster child for campaign reform.”

Donelon is running against Matt Parker, owner of Parker Auto Body, in the Republican primary. Parker has vowed not to take insurance industry donations.

Aswell’s research on both men’s campaign finances uncovered similar results to our July 30 campaign finance coverage.

Other RDN insurance commissioner coverage

Repairer Driven News’ study of 2015 campaign finance reports (see chart) found Donelon, a Republican, had collected at least $45,900 from insurance sources, about 18.3 percent of the $250,275 he’d raised this year as of mid-July.  Automotive companies had given at least $24,000 to Parker’s 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.

Aswell studied campaign financial data back to January 2014 and concluded insurers had given nearly $130,000 of the approximately $500,000 Donelon had raised since that date. He reported that Parker had collected $76,800 since Jan. 1, 2014.

The Louisiana Voice post notes that it can’t judge Parker’s qualifications or Donelon’s honesty. However, it argued “no elected regulator should be allowed to receive so much as one dollar from individuals or industries they regulate.”

“While the official may be incorruptible and the epitome of virtue and integrity, the perception is, and always will be, that their decisions will always come down on the side of the contributor,” it continued.

The Louisiana Democratic Party said Aug. 26 that attorney Charlotte McGehee, who owns the Charlotte C. McDaniel McGehee law firm, has also entered the race, announcing her candidacy on “The Jim Engster Show.” Her specialty is employment and family law. Though she doesn’t seem to have offered the kind of sweeping pledge Parker did, she seems to be of a similar mindset. Her campaign slogan is “For Louisiana families over corporate insurance interests.”

Call for donations

Clinton Body Shop owner John Mosley, who unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney in the Mississippi Republican primary, on Monday penned a lengthy email commenting on the Louisiana Voice post. In it, he makes a case for repairer donations to Parker and pledges $500. Here’s an excerpt from the email, which also noted the influence of non-industry-specific political action committees like the State Government Leadership Foundation, which backed Chaney.

I sincerely hope our industry will gather around and support Matt in his effort to become the Louisiana commissioner of insurance. His victory has the potential to set up a chain of events that could change the insurance industry in every state. The insurance companies know this,  as do the corrupt politicians that feed off the insurance industry around the country. … I am sending my donation to Matt today. If repair shops nationwide would do the same, Matt can win. It comes down to money for TV advertising. Matt has to get his name out and have it on people’s mind when they make their choice.  … When you combine the efforts of these super pacs and the feet on the ground effort by some insurance companies … it’s hard to compete. I bore the burden for the greatest expense in my campaign, though I did receive help from many repair facilities in Mississippi and across the country. The problem for me was I received financial assistance from dozens of  sources including individuals, but the support didn’t amount to one hundred thousand dollars. I added over one hundred thousand dollars from my retirement fund, and like Matt, I walked away from my business pretty much for a five month period. I was all over the state. I put 35000 miles on my vehicle campaigning.  Even with all this effort, I was overcome by the efforts of these big companies and special interest groups. Make no mistake, the insurance industry knows what matt’s success will mean nationwide. Our industry knows it as well. The question is, who will step up and stand with Matt on behalf of consumers and repairers nationwide? I am sending Matt a donation of 500.00 today. If one thousand shops, 20 from each state would do that or more, Matt could win.

More information:

“David v. Goliath: Underdog Matt Parker takes on Insurance Commissioner Donelon, hoard of insurance industry donors”

Louisiana Voice, Aug. 28, 2015

Featured images: Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon, left, is running against Matt Parker, owner of Parker Auto Body, in the Republican primary. (Provided by Louisiana Insurance Department, Parker campaign)

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