The race: Insurance commissioner: Whose ads? Democratic candidates Bill Press, John Garamendi and Conway Collis.
Press has a new 30-second commercial that attacks two leading opponents, Garamendi and Collis, as servants of special interests--Garamendi of insurers and Collis of corporate donors. Garamendi has a 30-second commercial that pledges to make every insurance company obey Proposition 103. Collis has a 30-second commercial that reports he scored highest on a Ralph Nader questionnaire of the insurance commissioner candidates.
Ad: Press' commercial declares, "As a state legislator, Garamendi took over $100,000 from the insurance industry. And now he's been endorsed by the insurance industry's lobby. As an elected official, Conway Collis took money from corporations and voted them millions in tax breaks. Maybe that's why the Democratic Party rejected them and endorsed Bill Press. . . . Bill Press. He's on our side."
Analysis: Garamendi has taken at least $123,000 in his 16 years in the Legislature from insurers, a little under $8,000 a year, but he has not taken anything from them since announcing for insurance commissioner, and he repudiated the endorsement of the legal reform group that Press is referring to here. That group, the Assn. for Tort Reform, has been accused of being a front for the industry but is not its major lobby. Collis, before 1986, did take thousands of dollars in contributions from corporations while occasionally voting as a State Board of Equalization member to allow them to pay less taxes than the board staff recommended. Since 1986, he says, he has changed his policy and will not vote on any matter relating to a party from which he has received a contribution. He acknowledges some oversights, but he maintains he has "learned" to be a better elected official in recent years. What Press does not say in these ads is that, much more than either Garamendi or Collis, he has raised money in the insurance commissioner's campaign from one of the major special interests in the insurance issue, the trial lawyers. Those contributions now amount to at least $273,500. Press does have the official endorsement of the Democratic Party.