Bill targets Oxendine’s insurance industry contributions

State Rep. Austin Scott (R-Tifton) on Thursday introduced legislation that makes it illegal for the state insurance commissioner to accept campaign contributions from executives of companies regulated by his office.

The bill is in response to months’ of reporting by the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other media outlets that current Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine has collected more than $2.6 million from employees and owners of insurance and small-businesses that Oxendine regulates.

Scott said state law already prohibits officials from taking money from companies they regulate, but his measure would expand that ban to certain employees of those companies. It was introduced in the House on Thursday and sent to the Governmental Affairs Committee, which Scott chaired until this session. He resigned the chairmanship to focus on his race for governor.

“Yet, the existing law has not proven sufficient to prohibit this type of conduct in some cases, most notably by our current insurance commissioner,” Scott said.

Scott’s interests here are not completely altruistic. He is currently one of six Republicans challenging Oxendine for the GOP’s nomination for governor, a fact that Oxendine believes is driving Scott’s legislation.

“Our government needs comprehensive ethics reform,” Oxendine  said in a statement. “That is why I laid out a plan for real reform two weeks ago. Scott’s proposal is nothing more than a political stunt by a desperate candidate. Georgians are tired of political theater and deserve meaningful reform for all elected officials.”

But Scott said revelations by the AJC last year that Oxendine accepted more than $120,000 in contributions by political action committees controlled by Delos “Dee” Yancey III show reforms are needed. Yancey is CEO of State Mutual Insurance Co., based in Rome. The State Ethics Commission is investigating whether the contributions violate state law.

The AJC has also reported that Oxendine has, over the past decade, taken more than $2.6 million from employees and owners of insurance and small-loan businesses that he regulates.

Scott said he understands that some will question his motivation.

“I’m going to tell you the truth and if the truth offends one of my opponents, then that’s because of their conduct, not mine,” Scott said.

Oxendine leads the polls for the GOP nomination. A poll released Thursday by Atlanta-based Insider Advantage has Oxendine at 25 percent and Scott at 3 percent, behind Oxendine, former Secretary of State Karen Handel (10 percent), U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal (9 percent) and former state Sen. Eric Johnson (7 percent).

Scott, a 14-year veteran of the House, last year introduced legislation to create a statewide grand jury to investigate public corruption. Had that bill passed, he said, this one potentially would not be necessary.

His new bill, HB 1166, would target not just the office-holder for taking contributions, but the insurance executive who gives it.

“It will allow those who serve in this constitutional office to focus on the job at hand without regard for how their position might be used as a potential benefit to their political campaigns,” Scott said. “Most importantly, it will help ensure that Georgians have fairer elections going forward.”

But Rick Thompson, the former  executive secretary of the State Ethics Commission, said he believes banning contributions is not the answer. Greater transparency is.

“The money is going to get there no matter what,” Thompson said. “It’s easier for a regulator to make it transparent. If people want to sit on their butt and not pay attention to the political process and elect someone who takes $1 million from Home Depot, then they ought to.”

14 comments Add your comment

GoOx

February 11th, 2010
3:23 pm

Cheap political stunt by somebody who is with the the margin of error in the polls. My man Ox did nothing wrong. Of course the liberal AJC needs to cover a story that is just a cheap attack on my man Ox.

Aaron Gould Sheinin

February 11th, 2010
3:30 pm

Hey, GoOx! Good to see you again!

i know what i know

February 11th, 2010
3:47 pm

Awesome move by Scott!

A few years ago Oxendine made it clear to a group of agents at a certain well kknown firm that he was too busy with his campaign to get their rate request finished. So they presented him with a check. The rates were approved the next day.

GoAwayOx

February 11th, 2010
4:26 pm

Oxendine, please retire from public life, crawl back under your rock where you reptiles live and leave real life to the grown-ups. Take your daddy and Shirley Lassiter with you.

Tucker Republican

February 11th, 2010
4:36 pm

Oxendine is the worst thing to happen to Georgia in the last 30 years. You’ve heard of sleeping with the enemy? Oxendine sleeps with Blue Cross!

Spoke

February 11th, 2010
4:49 pm

Shouldn’t be a surprise. Oxendine was sponsored by the insurance industry from the beginning. This legislation is good, but our state needs a whole raft of meaningful ethics reform. Our legislature is among the most corrupt in the country. And don’t get me started on the DOT.

George C. Wilson

February 11th, 2010
5:19 pm

A culture of corruption and entitlement permeates our elected state officials.It is well documented that fines are not being paid for filing late reports to the ethics commission, to gifts from lobbyists, to favorable changes to the law that benefits lawmakers and their clients.The reason for this is gerrymandering of districts that you have many offices that aren’t even contested.

OxyMoron

February 12th, 2010
9:27 am

Ox’s wife works at Blue Cross, is that what you’re talking about Tucker?

That’s the same company the Oscar guy had a problem with until Ox got personally involved…leading to 50K in campaign contributions.

The depths of corruption go beyond what is currently being reported.

Dan Dawg

February 12th, 2010
10:50 am

So, you folks do know that My Man Ox switched wives with state senator David Shafer? Talk about Bible-thumping ultra-conservatism at its best.

Huzzah!

Joan Andrews

February 12th, 2010
4:36 pm

As long as your OX is not elected that will be great- he is the most corrupt human I have ever known to man kind! Thank God for Austin Scott!

Thomas

February 14th, 2010
11:47 am

Smoke screen….might want to look a little deeper AJC!

My Man Ox

February 14th, 2010
6:26 pm

Hm, Scott’s an insurance broker. I think My Man Ox oughta double check that everything’s in order with _that_ particular license.

Protect Your Rights!

February 16th, 2010
10:33 am

Any attempted bill that prohibits ANY citizen the right to contribute to a candidate of their chosing will be considered unconstitutional. Is campaig reform needed? Absolutely, but not by taking away an individual’s rights. Have to agree with the Ox on this one. Scott is simply pulling a ill conceived political stunt.

[...] Bill targets Oxendine’s insurance industry contributions By Aaron Gould Sheinin, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Thursday, February, 11, 2010 [...]