On Tim Temple’s Questionable Campaign For Insurance Commissioner

We don’t want to beat up AP reporter Melinda Deslatte too badly over her story about yesterday’s announcement that a “Republican” former insurance executive named Tim Temple is running for Louisiana Insurance Commissioner. After all, Deslatte is – if we might damn her with faint praise – one of the better political reporters working in the state, and her piece isn’t inaccurate.

At least, not necessarily.

Louisiana’s insurance commissioner has drawn a challenger from within his own party.

Republican Tim Temple announced Tuesday he will run for the office on the Oct. 12 ballot, seeking to oust GOP incumbent Jim Donelon.

Temple, who lives in Baton Rouge, has worked in family-owned insurance businesses and currently is president of a family-owned real estate management company. In a statement, Temple touted his insurance background, from working as a local insurance agent to his time as an insurance industry executive.

He doesn’t name Donelon in the statement, but Temple says Louisiana has “prioritized political experience over knowledge” in the commissioner’s job. Temple says auto insurance rates are too high and too few companies are writing insurance policies in Louisiana.

Donelon, a former lawmaker, has been insurance commissioner since 2006.

That’s accurate so far as it goes. Except there’s an awful lot left out of Deslatte’s story.

For example, why is Temple running? What does “prioritizing political experience over knowledge” mean?

Deslatte’s piece could have mentioned that Temple is the son of Aubrey T. Temple Jr., who was the founding Chairman of the Board of the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Corporation. The elder Temple took emeritus status on the LWCC board in 2012. During the time Temple was atop the board at LWCC, he saw more than a few Commissioners of Insurance with whom he dealt. One of them, from 2000-06, was Robert Wooley.

LWCC, you see, is chartered by the state as something of a carrier-of-last-resort for worker’s compensation insurance, so decisions like who runs the place need a stamp of approval from the Insurance Commissioner. Think of LWCC as a similar entity to Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, which is the carrier-of-last-resort for homeowners’ insurance in the state. And Donelon, who took over for Wooley as Insurance Commissioner in 2006 after Wooley resigned under something of a cloud over questionable auto purchases and a few other questionable (hey, there’s that word again!) activities, found himself in an uncomfortable position when Wooley sought a spot on the Citizens board, which would put him in a position of charge with respect to the last-resort homeowners’ carrier. Donelon, after all, had been Wooley’s No. 2 at the Insurance Department while Hurricane Katrina hit the state and exposed practically everything that was wrong with that department, so it’s not a real surprise he would think it was a questionable choice to put Wooley atop LWCC.

There’s more history than that. Wooley, it turns out, was the old campaign guru and law partner of another former Insurance Commissioner – that being on James “Jim” Brown, who went under indictment on several counts of questionable activity in that job. Brown managed to wriggle off the federal hook on those counts but was nevertheless pinched for lying to the FBI and spent time in jail. He was the second of three straight Insurance Commissioners in Louisiana who graduated to prison – Sherman Bernard was first, and then Doug Greene was third. Wooley, Brown’s old pal, bragged when he resigned that he’d broken the string of jailbird commissioners, though the word around the state capitol was that had he stuck around six months more he wouldn’t have been able to make that claim.

Deslatte didn’t include a Louisiana Weekly piece by Christopher Tidmore which brags on the connection between Wooley and Tim Temple…

Robert Wooley was singularly responsible for appointing the former GOP legislator as 1st Assistant in the LA Insurance Department, and ultimately Donelon’s ascension to the Commissionership. Wooley is now doing everything in his power to make sure Jim Donelon is defeated for re-election next Autumn, actually going so far as to manage the campaign of Baton Rouge Insurance executive Tim Temple for the IC’s position.

Thanks in large part to the former Insurance Commissioner, Temple has been raising campaign dollars at a record clip, and, even a year out, apparently has already secured a number of major endorsements.

The falling out between the two LA Insurance Commissioners has turned quite a few heads in the local political world.

The two were once close friends. Robert Wooley, a Democrat, had appointed the long-time Jefferson Parish Republican State House member and 1998 GOP U.S. Senate candidate as First Assistant Insurance Commissioner in 2001. Wooley cited Donelon’s long experience Chairing the House Insurance Committee and the latter’s authorship of landmark Mental Heath coverage mandates for health insurance in Louisiana.

However, when Tim Temple, the son of Aubrey T. Temple Jr., the founding chairman of the board of Louisiana Workers Compensation Corp. (LWCC), a former U.S. Senate staffer, and insurance executive, expressed interest in the IC’s position, Wooley reportedly put his legal practice on hold to manage the DeRidder native’s campaign full time.

That Louisiana Weekly piece came to our attention last week. Why? Because Jim Brown blasted it out to his e-mail list.

There are some other things about Tim Temple which are pretty questionable – like why is he running as a Republican? This is, after all, someone who’s made campaign donations to Ravi Sangisetty ($500 in 2010, when Sangisetty was the Democrat running against Jeff Landry) and Ron Wyden ($1000), and to Mitch Landrieu ($1000). Plus $2,000 to Sharon Weston Broome’s mayoral campaign in 2016.

And then there’s the $15,000 he’s contributed to one John Bel Edwards.

Some “Republican.” Sure, he’s contributed to Republicans – Garrett Graves got him for $2,500, and state senator Barrow Peacock has picked up checks from him, and so did Bobby Jindal (and Jay Dardenne, and Julie Stokes). But $15,000 to John Bel Edwards?

We’d call that questionable.

This race is going to come down to something unquestionable, given Temple’s connection with Woolley and Brown – do we go with the only insurance commissioner in the last 30 years who didn’t either go to jail or have everybody in the know figure he was about to, or a guy connected with two of them?

And if your answer is that Donelon ought to go because car insurance rates are so high, then OK – do some research and ask yourself who all those trial lawyers with their mugs on billboards along the highway promising to make you rich from your car wreck are supporting. Because what you’ll find is they’re not backing Donelon.

That’s the one thing we can say for sure isn’t questionable in this race.

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