It might be hokey, and 30 second spots are generally better than the 60-second variety, but there’s a lot of truth in the radio ad now playing around the state that Insurance Commisioner Jim Donelon’s camp just dropped.
The Insurance Commissioner race has flown under the radar to a very large extent, thanks to the Ragnarok that the governor’s race has become. That’s been largely to Temple’s benefit – Donelon is probably the most understated of the statewide officeholders in Louisiana and therefore the power of his incumbency is more muted than is, for example, Mike Strain’s or Jeff Landry’s.
But the thing to remember about Donelon is that he’s held that job for 13 years and he hasn’t gone to jail.
That’s a big deal, though it seems like something of a low standard. Remember that Louisiana had three Insurance Commissioners in a row go to jail and it might well have been a fourth – Robert Woolley, who we’ll get to shortly, had to resign in disgrace after word of some department auto purchases leaked out and caused a good deal of embarrassment.
When Donelon took office the state was coming out of Hurricane Katrina and flood insurance was nothing short of a crisis. There was well more than a billion dollars in policies tied up in Louisiana Citizens’ Insurance, the quasi-public homeowners’ insurance of last resort, which put the state in a fiscal bind. Donelon managed to unwind that portfolio and put it back in the private sector, something he’s been nationally recognized for.
Donelon also helped write the bill protecting Louisianans with pre-existing conditions from losing their health insurance if and when Obamacare is declared unconstitutional at the Supreme Court next year.
By any reasonable measure he’s been a very good insurance commissioner.
But Donelon might lose this election because of car insurance rates. People notice auto insurance is through the sky here, and they figure the insurance commissioner isn’t doing a good job.
The thing is, Louisiana’s car insurance rates are the highest around for a very specific reason. No, it’s not that our drivers are bad. They are, but there aren’t more wrecks here than everywhere else. And no, it’s not that we have too many uninsured drivers. We have more than the average, but we’re not an outlier there. The quality of our roads and streets doesn’t help, but that’s not the worst problem.
No, the worst problem is that there are more personal injury suits filed from car wrecks in Louisiana than anywhere else in the country.
And Jim Donelon can’t fix that.
The only way you can fix that is with tort reform. You need the governor and the legislature to fix it. An insurance commissioner can’t. He can make recommendations, and if you pass tort reform he can use that to sell insurers on writing insurance here; the resulting competition likely drives down insurance rates. But he can’t snap his fingers and make the rates come down.
Donelon was for the tort reform bill the trial lawyers in the Senate Judiciary A Committee killed at John Bel Edwards’ request. There isn’t much more he can do.
And if you don’t buy this formulation of the car insurance problem, then ask yourself this – if the reason the rates are so high is that the insurance companies are screwing the public, how come Nationwide Insurance, which according to its name would almost have to be here and who uses New Orleans native Peyton Manning as its spokesman, doesn’t write car insurance in Louisiana?
Wouldn’t you think if this was such a great place for insurance companies to do business and rape the consumer, that Nationwide Insurance would be in on the game?
They’re not the only carrier who doesn’t want to write car insurance in the state with the second-highest rates in the country, you know.
Our concern is that voters will blame Donelon for the car insurance rates and vote him out in favor of Temple. You might be interested in doing that out of a desire for change and improvement, but the problem is if you do you’re placing the state at risk of having the Bad Old Days come back at the Louisiana Insurance Commission.
Which brings us back to Wooley – who has made $150,000 as Temple’s campaign manager. Nobody makes that kind of money running a political campaign. Nobody.
Why is Tim Temple, a Republican, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars buying his way onto “black” ballots across the state? Why has he been endorsed by the Legislative Black Caucus?
This is somebody who has given John Bel Edwards $15,000 in campaign contributions, by the way. He also was a former staffer for Mary Landrieu.
Does that sound like the kind of leadership that moves Louisiana forward? Maybe if you’re a Democrat. If you’re a Republican, it should look shady.
Vote Donelon on Saturday. Let’s not make things worse.