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An Insurance Veteran Put the Industry's Image at a Premium

September 24, 2006|Peter Nicholas | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Before he became a top aide to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dan Dunmoyer, then an insurance lobbyist, wrote a report laying out a "strategic plan" for the industry through 2010.

The document, written for his employers and obtained by The Times, is a revealing look at how Dunmoyer -- who now helps shape the governor's overall policy agenda -- sized up the political terrain.

In a recent interview in the governor's office, Dunmoyer said his intent in writing the report, labeled a draft, was "encouraging the insurance industry to get more active in the political process."

In the 21-page document, completed in 2002, Dunmoyer said the insurance industry's image needed to be improved. He suggested borrowing an approach from another industry with an image problem: tobacco.

"Philip Morris and other tobacco companies' public relations efforts have included an aggressive campaign to educate people on the role their companies play within the community and the services they provide," he wrote. "A similar campaign by insurers would go a long way toward changing the public perception of the insurance industry."

Dunmoyer also worried that insurers were not giving enough campaign money to politicians and recommended that his colleagues ratchet up their contributions.

He advised the industry to make "much more aggressive" use of independent expenditures -- money spent in support of candidates or causes without being donated directly to them. Unlike other campaign donations, independent expenditures are not subject to limits.

"If the insurance industry, in combination with other key business groups, were to put together a substantial independent expenditure campaign, they would be better positioned to ensure the election of pro-business candidates," Dunmoyer wrote.

Taking aim at three Democratic state senators he described as insurance industry "antagonists," Dunmoyer urged the industry to send a message that lawmakers who "beat up" on insurers would be jeopardizing their political futures. The three were Martha Escutia (Whittier), Joe Dunn (Santa Ana) and Jackie Speier (Hillsborough).

Dunmoyer wrote that it would "behoove us to look for ways to ensure that when they run for higher office, there is no place for them to land."

Speier ran for lieutenant governor in the June 6 primary election and was defeated by Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi, a fellow Democrat and another elected official criticized in Dunmoyer's report.

The state Department of Insurance is filled with "hostile and unmanageable staff," Dunmoyer wrote, "who are not regulators but self-promoting consumer advocates who relish notoriety over solvency and gladly assert trial lawyers as allies."

Asked about Dunmoyer's statements, Speier said, "I'm not surprised that an industry lobbyist would try and devise means" of ousting its antagonists. Insurers, she said, are "not interested in consumer protection. They're interested in promoting the industry at all costs."

peter.nicholas@latimes.com

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