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Quackenbush Letter Strikes Out at Critics

Government: Insurance chief e-mails Republicans, saying he is being 'crucified' by the media.

May 14, 2000|From a Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Saying he has been "tried, sentenced and crucified all at the hands of the media," embattled California Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush has sent a letter to 15,000 fellow Republicans, defending his performance.

"Greetings from my garrison in Sacramento!" former Army officer Quackenbush says in a letter circulated on the Internet by the California Republican Party headquarters in Burbank.

Quackenbush, whose department is being probed by the state attorney general and two legislative committees for its handling of $12.8 million in Northridge earthquake settlements with insurance companies, assures GOP members that he "will not be run from office by my political opponents who are more interested in political games and headline-seeking rhetoric than California's consumers."

The letter is peppered with military terms: "assault," "angle of attack," "mission." Dan Edwards, spokesman for Quackenbush at the Department of Insurance, confirmed that "the letter was authentic and that it did go out."

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday May 19, 2000 Home Edition Part A Part A Page 3 Metro Desk 1 inches; 31 words Type of Material: Correction
Wrong address--An article in editions of Sunday, May 14, incorrectly identified the private e-mail address of state Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush. The correct address is

An accompanying note from California Republican Party Chairman John McGraw asks readers of the letter to direct their comments to Quackenbush's private e-mail address,

GOP spokesman Patrick Moir said the Republican e-mail list contains about 15,000 names.

In the letter, a defiant Quackenbush accuses state Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer, Assembly Insurance Committee Chairman Jack Scott (D-Altadena) and state Senate Insurance Committee Chairwoman Jackie Speier (D-Daly City) of hypocrisy in their probes of his activities, including collecting political contributions from the industry he regulates. In his six years in office, Quackenbush--who began his first campaign for commissioner by saying he would not take insurance money--has accepted more than $6.4 million from insurers.

Following is the full text of the letter:

"Greetings from my garrison in Sacramento!

"I know you have been following the political controversies surrounding the Department of Insurance and my activities in the press. The coverage in the newspapers has been relentless, repetitive and partisan. I have been tried, sentenced and crucified all at the hands of the media, with its liberal slant and pro-Democrat bias, without the fair and just opportunity to confront my accusers and defend myself against their partisan allegations.

"I want to assure you and make it absolutely clear that every action we took was completely legal and designed to get money into the hands of deserving earthquake victims.

"We at the department were growing increasingly impatient with the continuing hangover of claims from the Northridge earthquake. Endless litigation was shortchanging consumers and I felt more aggressive action was merited. Settlements were a unique opportunity to not only get an unprecedented $6 million directly into the hands of earthquake victims but also to educate children and their families on earthquake preparedness. Another goal of these settlements was to reach out to those communities that have been historically underserved and systematically overlooked by California's insurance companies.

"So what is the inevitable political angle? Let's face it: I am one of two lone statewide Republicans in a very partisan Democrat town. They have employed every angle of attack to defame my character and smear my impeccable record. The Democrats, in a partisan frenzy, have failed to see the hypocrisy of their actions.

"Jack Scott, chair of the Assembly Insurance Committee, has taken over $100,000 from insurance companies while voting on insurance issues. Jackie Speier, chair of the Senate Insurance Committee, received over $4,000 from two insurance companies shortly after a bill supported by those companies become state law. Bill Lockyer, California's attorney general, has collected over $100,000 from the gaming industry he regulates.

"My predecessor, John Garamendi, ventured into a settlement where the money collected was given to gay and lesbian community organizations. Bill Lockyer, involved in a state-sponsored lawsuit, collected money from others involved in the lawsuit; the others avoided the possibility of millions of dollars in fines and received millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded upgrades.

"None of these items seemed to raise an eyebrow, much less a hearing, in this Democrat town. The Democrats are well-seasoned and focused professionals in character assassination. We are responding aggressively to this assault but don't expect it to end soon.

"Finally, let me emphatically say that I will not be run from my office by my political opponents who are more interested in political gains and headline-seeking rhetoric than California's consumers. Despite all these distractions and stresses, this continues to be the most important and rewarding mission I have ever had the honor to perform.

"Please know that your support and advice is vitally important in helping to end this political witch hunt and ensure a strong Republican future for California.

"Sincerely, Chuck Quackenbush, California Insurance Commissioner"

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