An image issue that Oxendine can’t resolve in office

Hundreds of companies with thousands of employees doing billions of dollars in business with millions of Georgians, all under the thumb of one man.

For 15 years, that’s been Georgia’s insurance industry in a nutshell. The one man is John Oxendine, state insurance commissioner since 1995.

It’s a more powerful post than many citizens realize, and Oxendine has become one of Georgia’s leading vote-getters. If you believe opinion polls, he’s the front-runner to replace Sonny Perdue as governor.

With that leading status comes scrutiny. And much of the scrutiny on Oxendine centers on whether he’s spent his time in office seeking — some would say demanding — the help of the people he regulates to build his political career and fill his campaign coffers.

Serious allegations are raised in reports by the AJC and other outlets. While any one incident may strike the casual political observer as inside baseball, a theme emerges when you view them as a whole.

First, there are the campaign contributions totaling $120,000 which were funneled to him from two Georgia-based insurance companies in 2008, as the AJC reported last May.

Oxendine regulates both companies. After the AJC report, and several months after the donations were made, Oxendine returned the money “out of an abundance of caution.”

Yet Oxendine appointed the head of both firms, Delos “Dee” Yancey III, as chairman of an influential insurance association. Even after the men’s ties were questioned, Oxendine went quail hunting on land that Yancey owned. (You may have heard about it when Oxendine’s son accidentally shot a man.)

Yancey is hardly the only insurance exec to fund Oxendine’s campaigns. The AJC reports that employees and owners of firms regulated by Oxendine gave him at least $2.6 million, or 40 percent of his total election funds, over 10 years.

From here the trail gets a little trickier to follow.

Earlier this month, U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland accused Oxendine of a “shakedown” attempt. The GOP lawmaker referred to a phone call Oxendine made to him in December about a state investigation of Southeastern U.S. Insurance Co. (SEUS), on whose board Westmoreland once served.

Westmoreland said Oxendine pledged to keep his name out of the media as a favor; he felt Oxendine was sending a message. Westmoreland, popular among Georgia conservatives, supports Nathan Deal for governor.

Then came a strange twist: another phone call to Westmoreland, this time by former state legislator Matt Towery.

Towery, who’s also an attorney, visited Oxendine to discuss the SEUS case; at the time, he represented the company’s former CEO, Clark Fain.

Finding Oxendine “obsessed” with Westmoreland’s “shakedown” comment, Towery agreed to call the congressman — while in Oxendine’s office — and ask him to drop the matter. Towery later admitted it “looked wrong” to intervene in a dispute involving a regulator investigating his client.

Given the money involved in the industry, the insurance commissioner must be squeaky clean — even more so than other officials. Oxendine may have remained in bounds all along.

But voters may conclude that they can’t be sure as long as he’s in office — and retains sway over key figures in the stories.

A spokesman this week said Oxendine “is not a quitter and will not leave a job before it is finished.” That’s his call.

As for how voters view things— well, that’s their call.

72 comments Add your comment

tim

February 26th, 2010
8:33 pm

When you need to turn in a story to your editor and you don’t have anything, write about John Oxendine.

JimC

February 26th, 2010
8:48 pm

Just go back over the years and read all the times that Oxendine has been front page news, almost always in a negative way. I wouldn’t vote for him for dog catcher.

Tyler Durden

February 26th, 2010
9:16 pm

Agreed that he’s certainly made a bit of a mockery of public service from that role. In addition to the embarrassment of him wrapping state-owned crown vics around trees, he’s also made sure the insurance rules favor the folks sending him all of those contributions (if I was Dee Yancey, I’d do any & everything possible to keep this man in charge). Can’t say there’s much to like about him other than the brazenness that will likely be his downfall. And he’ll make sure the primaries will be a bloodbath where no one really wins as much as just survives.

Should be mighty interesting…

Michael H. Smith

February 27th, 2010
12:51 am

There is something to be said about uneasy feelings, Kyle: They are usually right.

Allen

February 27th, 2010
5:57 am

I’m equally bothered by the issues raised in this brief article:

http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2003/06/23/344596/index.htm

Churchill's MOM

February 27th, 2010
7:04 am

If the OX goes Deal should follow him, CREW named him 1 of the 12 most corrupt lawmakers. Bottom line the 3 Men leading in Republican polls are crooks. I am not going to throw rocks at Sonny because he never expected to beat King Roy, but it has been a long time since Georgia has had a good Governor.

ryan

February 27th, 2010
7:30 am

Kyle, why so weak-kneed in your opinion? Say Oxendine needs to go. He does need to go. He’s no change from bad Ga politics and politicians. You make a good case, now state the conclusion.

The Tar and Feathers Party

February 27th, 2010
7:32 am

Oxenswine is dangerous, imho, a petty little hitler type. His abuse of his “blue light special” made headline news five to 10 years ago, and is a prime example of his “special powers for me” mentality. We will rue the day he sits in the Guv’s office, mark my words. If he is guv, you better pray there is no break down in National Authority that would allow him to rule by decree, especially not without Federal Court oversight.

The Tar and Feathers Party

February 27th, 2010
7:40 am

Churchill’s MOM: I agree about the three repukes, but remember the leading dummycrat is a proven crook himself, imho. Remember the 100 million Ga Medicaid dollars he stole for his out of state law buddies via the no bid contingency contract to tell Ga Medicaid how to cheat the feds out of the Ga Medicaid cost share? Ga medicaid already new how to do this, and other states were already doing it and could have been copied. The Feds told Ga that any tax on health care to pay the State’s cost share had to be broad based. Yet the crook signed a contingency contract that gave away 100 million medicaid dollars. He told GA that came from the Federal cost share, he told the Feds it came from the Ga cost share, but in truth it came from all Georgians. The other proven bit of crookedness came from the Ga 400 toll road money, millions of which were diverted to Atlantic Station and the crooks cronies, imho. Both methods of stealing were made explicitly illegal by the ga leg after the crook said “the law didn’t explicitly say I couldn’t do it,” or some such words. He should be tarred and feathered…..

Trained Teacher

February 27th, 2010
7:43 am

If you ever have an insurance problem, you can be sure OX will be there to help. His office is one of the few; maybe the only one, to be open after 5pm. He has my vote.

Insurance man

February 27th, 2010
8:15 am

God forbid if this man wins anything in state politics ever again. It is an amazing indictment of the ignorance of the Ga voters who have kept him in office and who might vote for him again. I worked for an insurance company he regulated for 15 years and he was always the running joke of state government.

Common Sense Man

February 27th, 2010
8:57 am

Now who would be interested in giving money to the Agriculture Commissoner? Agriculture! Those over whom the commissioner has power. So why should insurance be any different?

Churchill's MOM

February 27th, 2010
9:03 am

The Tar and Feathers Party 7:40 am

I’ll be voting for Handel in the primary and runoff.. If 1 of the 3 Republicans crooks are running against King Roy, I’ll vote for Mond and set out the runoff. I think Handel & Chapman are the only honest people running for the Republican nomination.

Candor

February 27th, 2010
9:03 am

Why can’t we get dedicated, honest people to run for public office? Both Oxendind and Deal have a cloud over them. I don’t trust either to represent anything other than themselves.

Morrus

February 27th, 2010
9:41 am

Enter your comments here

Morrus

February 27th, 2010
9:41 am

Vote out the incumbents and start over

No More Progressives!

February 27th, 2010
9:44 am

Insurance man

February 27th, 2010
8:15 am
“God forbid if this man wins anything in state politics ever again. It is an amazing indictment of the ignorance of the Ga voters who have kept him in office and who might vote for him again.”

Absolutely!! Spot on, Insurance Man.

Thomas Jefferson said that voting is a priviledge for an “informed electorate.”

No More Progressives!

February 27th, 2010
9:46 am

Candor

February 27th, 2010
9:03 am
Why can’t we get dedicated, honest people to run for public office?

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutley.

R Pitts

February 27th, 2010
9:58 am

Oxendine is one of the biggest piece of trash politicians ever. I pray he does not get elected governor of this state. If he does, it will set GA back decades.

Icarus

February 27th, 2010
10:42 am

“If you ever have an insurance problem, you can be sure OX will be there to help.”

That’s the typical line you hear from the Ox camp. We know he does a good job because every time there’s a fire or natural disaster, he races to the cameras so he can tell us he’s doing a good job.

However, the Georgia Department of Audits found that Ox had failed to manage his fraud unit at all, and had spent the travel money allocated to that department for other agency purposes:

http://www.peachpundit.com/2010/02/10/audit-slams-oxendines-special-fraud-program/

So, he’s a shakedown artist, an admitted politician and not a regulator who will do/say whatever it takes to get elected, and also, apparently, an ineffective manager.

I’ve already said Ox should resign and withdraw from the Governor’s race as well. He won’t. But I think he has to resign upon conviction, so there’s still hope.

Yup

February 27th, 2010
10:44 am

I am a pretty conservative guy, but I have always had a creepy feeling about Oxendine. He is NOT the sort of leader Georgia needs right now. Maybe ever…

Red

February 27th, 2010
11:31 am

The talent pool of both parties local, state, and national needs chlorine. I’ve never seen so much dead wood running for office at all levels. You have to sift through the trash to find the good candidates who are running. Liberals cannot find a true liberal and conservatives cannot find a true conservative. Throw in skeletons in closets and corruption and you have the perfect storm. No wonder government is at such a state…

96 SC

February 27th, 2010
11:35 am

Kyle, Great Piece you reporting was very objective and without a doubt anyone with a conscious wouldd step aside.. oh I forget we are dealing with the OX.

The Tar and Feathers Party

February 27th, 2010
12:32 pm

Oxenswine: Definition according to South Park: Half Ox, Half Swine, Half Man

Hillbilly Deluxe

February 27th, 2010
1:08 pm

If there was any justice in the world, when the SEUS thing shakes out, there’d be several state politicians wearing horizontal stripes. It won’t happen though. The more things change; the more they stay the same.

GBlake

February 27th, 2010
1:17 pm

When my mother was suffering from Alzheimer’s, and her long-term care insurer refused to pay her bills, John Oxendine’s office acted on our behalf to get them to pay. It took months of letters and phone calls, but Oxendine persisted. He even got Florida’s insurance commissioner to join the case. Later my father’s claim also was denied, despite dementia and cancer. Again, John Oxendine and his staff prevailed. He runs an efficient office that is responsive to people’s legitimate needs I will vote for him.

Kevin

February 27th, 2010
1:44 pm

GBlake, sorry about your mom.

But her preferential treatment shouldn’t blind you to actually paying attention to the facts surrounding Mr. Oxendine.

Just because he helped you out, you’re willing to vote for a man that is increasingly stinking like week-old garbage. Says something about your character and, unfortunately, that of way too many other Georgians.

Oxendine must go.

hank

February 27th, 2010
1:45 pm

Governor not so much, however if I’m preggers and about to blow-out little hank I want/need a driver of his calibre with a fancy hood light to get me to the hospital asap…

Tech man

February 27th, 2010
1:48 pm

Hey, bring back Tim Ryles!!!! Uh, please don’t. Insurance Commissioner’s office improved 100% as soon as Oxendine took office. He has been a blessing.

Michael H. Smith

February 27th, 2010
2:24 pm

Speaking of resignations, I just read my Rep. John Linder will not seek re-election. It is understandable though still it is quite a jolt to accept. I only hope we can find someone that will come close to what Rep. Linder has meant both to and for many of us in the Seventh Congressional district for so many years.

Bama Bill

February 27th, 2010
4:11 pm

Oxendine should never have been ELECTED ! Just another corrupt bum living off of the position of power.

Ninja Liberty Man

February 27th, 2010
6:23 pm

This is a funny video about Oxendine.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5hwoY6VJwM

The man is a RINO dear citizens…. The people of Georgia need a real Conservative governor.

Support Ray McBerry in November.

catlady

February 27th, 2010
6:35 pm

Answer: Oxendine, Perdue, Chambliss, Deal

Can you guess the question?

BTW, wasn’t Oxendine also in trouble about buying a car after being told he couldn’t?

Tired of redneck politicians

February 27th, 2010
7:11 pm

We will never get ahead as a state or a region until we stop electing these redneck politicians who praise God while they live lives as gangsters. And I wish Ox could understand when these articles appear we can always see when he has staffers write in to say what a wonderful guy he is. Someone wrote that his brazenness will be his downfall and I couldn’t agree more. When that happens,not if but when, we will see him go to church drape his family around him in full support and have a host of political who’s who’s all declaring what a special man he is. Ox is a special kind of guy alright but not in a good way. May your Karma run over your Dogma Johnny!

dave

February 28th, 2010
9:13 am

I get one vote, it will not be for Oxendine.

Lewis Grizzard's Ghost

February 28th, 2010
9:15 am

Don’t re-elect anybody . . . they’ve already had their chance to change things . . . and, they didn’t.

Will

February 28th, 2010
9:59 am

I think politicians should complete the job they asked voters to give them – it burns me up when I contribute to political campaigns in order to help someone get elected and then that person quits that job to pursue another job. Politicians should be more truthful (now there’s a joke!) when begging for money to get elected for one job when they know they really want another job.

I’ll tell you another thing that bothers me relating to this – political appointees who begin to bail for other jobs as the the term of the office holder nears end. This is a truly nonpartisan issue where thousands of federal appointees quit (and to a lesser extent state appointees) in order to either accept private sector jobs or to begin looking for private sector jobs.

IF the jobs are important (and that’s a really big IF), how can having a interim appointee, who is not likely to do anything other than draw a paycheck, be good for the country?

steve

February 28th, 2010
10:37 am

never would vote for him in a million years

StJ

February 28th, 2010
10:53 am

His abuse of power and holier-than-thou attitude disqualifies him IMO. I’ll be looking for someone else to vote for.

Houckster

February 28th, 2010
1:50 pm

RED wrote: You have to sift through the trash to find the good candidates who are running. Liberals cannot find a true liberal and conservatives cannot find a true conservative.
___
First of all, no “liberal” or “progressive” would have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the governorship. Any such candidate would probably be run out of the state on a rail. That’s probably the least that could happen in a state where 32% of Republicans would favor secession from the Union according to a recent poll.

Frankly, not even a centrist has much of a chance. Only some flavor of blood-red conservative will be chosen.

Secondly, Democrats are not all liberals. Some are very conservative. Roy Barnes is general just right of center in my view. The Republicans seem to have a contest going to see who can be the most conservative.

Frankly, I think Mr. Barnes is far more capable than anyone the Republicans will likely field but he hasn’t got a chance. We’re more comfortable with mediocrity as long as it’s conservative.

The Tar and Feathers Party

February 28th, 2010
3:12 pm

Better a mediocre honest man than a brilliant CROOK!

The Tar and Feathers Party

February 28th, 2010
3:16 pm

I’m with Lewis Grizzard’s Ghost, don’t re elect crooks, and do not elect them to higher office. Hang em if you must, but tarring and feathering is far more fun, and it hurts em a lot longer. “Hi there Roy, weren’t you tarred and feathered back in 2011?” Now that will stick to a politician, like, like, uh, like tar and feathers.

Houckster

February 28th, 2010
3:42 pm

TAR AND FEATHERS PARTY: Better a mediocre honest man than a brilliant CROOK!
____
OK! I’ll bite. Why is Roy Barnes a crook? Also will the Republicans find someone who is honest? BTW, 2011 is next year.

In the political environment we’ve got, Mother Teresa would be considered a crook in about 15 minutes. What I’m seeing in most of the comments is basic paranoia. Is it true that everyone is out to get us.

I think that if we’re looking for an angel, you’ll be destined for considerable disappointment.

The Tar and Feathers Party

February 28th, 2010
3:53 pm

100 million dollars given to an out of state law firm for advice….on contingency yet.

millions from the ga toll road fund diverted to atlantic station.

Houckster

February 28th, 2010
3:55 pm

Please supply links to these so that I can read about them.

The Tar and Feathers Party

February 28th, 2010
3:55 pm

Georgia’s full of crooks, we are gonna need more tar and more feathers……

The Tar and Feathers Party

February 28th, 2010
3:56 pm

do Ur own research, clown.

The Tar and Feathers Party

February 28th, 2010
3:57 pm

Call OPEC, order a super tanker of TAR….

The Tar and Feathers Party

February 28th, 2010
3:58 pm

Good thing we got them chicken farms, all the feathers a politician is likely ta need ta cover their fat but

No More Progressives!

February 28th, 2010
4:08 pm

“Secondly, Democrats are not all liberals. Some are very conservative. Roy Barnes is general just right of center in my view. The Republicans seem to have a contest going to see who can be the most conservative.”

King Roy was a fat, pompous, liberal a$$, and came across as such.