SACRAMENTO — State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner thrust California further into foreign policy areas usually left to Washington by ordering insurance companies to tell him whether they've invested money in Iran, a nation identified by the U.S. government as a sponsor of state terrorism.
Poizner, a Republican seeking his party's nomination for governor next year, said Monday that he had issued a "data call" to 250 insurers headquartered in the state and 1,500 others that are licensed to sell policies in California.
"I'm going to do what it takes to identify whether insurance companies doing business in California are in effect funneling billions of dollars into Iran, which is a country that poses a serious national security threat," Poizner said.
Insurance industry officials said they were troubled by Poizner's efforts to become involved in a foreign policy issue that is the responsibility of the federal government.
"We are concerned with any action, however well-intentioned, which complicates and defuses efforts of the United States to effectively respond to international challenges, especially in regard to national security," said Dave Snyder of the American Insurance Assn.
At a Los Angeles news conference, Poizner said he had authority under a state law that took effect Jan. 1 to require California-based insurers to report any investment they have in the government of Iran or in the defense, nuclear, petroleum, natural gas or banking areas of Iran's economy. Such investments are illegal under state and federal statutes, he said.
Poizner said his department would evaluate investments by California-based companies to ensure that they were safe.