Updated at 11:29 a.m. to include a response from John Oxendine.
Legislation sponsored by state Rep. Austin Scott to restrict campaign contributions from executives of companies regulated by state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine was kept in place by a House governmental affairs subcommittee on Wednesday.
Both Scott and Oxendine are Republican candidates for governor.
Hank Gurley, spokesman for the Scott campaign, said HB 1166 was held back to allow subcommittee members to rework language that barred the insurance commissioner or members of his immediate family from accepting gifts exceeding $100 in value.
Gurley said the bill would proceed, but some House members want the gift provision to adopt the language that currently governs members of the state Public Service Commission.
But this is the stuff likely to raise an eyebrow: During discussions about his legislation, Scott says another House member handed him a Fortune magazine article from June 2003. The original can be found here.
The short piece by Carol J. Loomis stems from comments made by Oxendine before a group of auto-insurance executives:
Want an unvarnished look at how Georgia’s Republican insurance commissioner, John Oxendine, 41, views the businesses he oversees? Here, courtesy of a newsletter company, Risk Information, is what Oxendine said at a recent conference it held for auto-insurance managers.
First, Oxendine said, those managers ought to be wary of the 12 states in which the insurance commissioner is elected — Georgia is one of them — because “we are different.” Details: “We are a pain in the butt. We are very high-maintenance…. I am not a professional regulator, I am a politician…. I’m going to do what I think is going to get me reelected.”
Oxendine does believe, he says, that insurers are entitled to a fair and reasonable profit: “I am not one of these Socialists never ever going to give out a rate increase.” But, he said, “you need to realize that you have to find a way to always make me look good in front of the voters.”
As for campaign contributions, he noted he wasn’t allowed to take them from insurance companies, but money from individuals is entirely acceptable. And gettable: “I’m the incumbent. You all are going to give me money because you’re afraid not to.”
Maybe this man had a mother who told him never to lie?
Oxendine e-mailed this response:
“The article didn’t tell the whole story. I was commenting on the benefits of having an Insurance Commissioner who is elected, not appointed, and that incumbent officials receive contributions from people who have an interest in that office.”
“Look at the contributors to Mr. Scott’s campaign in the past and I think you’ll see some hypocrisy in his new attitude. The folks that have given to him historically are those PACs and lobbyists who have an interest in the legislation that goes through the committees he sits on. If Scott wants to make changes to the law, he should make the same rules he has proposed apply to legislators and other officials as well.”
Fortune drew Oxendine’s quotes from a June 9, 2003 report by Auto Insurance Report, a newsletter. Click here for the entire account, made available with permission.
In context or out, expect Gov. Sonny Perdue to add this to his file on why the insurance commissioner should be an appointed position, rather than an elected one.
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