As the insurance industry seeks approval for mega-mergers and double-digit rate hikes, it is contributing millions of dollars to sway a dozen state races this year that determine who regulates the nation’s insurance companies.
Obscured by the bombastic presidential campaign, the low-profile bid by insurers has far-reaching implications for consumers and businesses alike. At stake are five elections for insurance commissioner — the little-known but powerful state officials who review insurance rates, investigate complaints and scrutinize company finances. But insurance industry cash is also flowing to campaigns for governor. In seven states holding gubernatorial elections on Nov. 8, governors have the power to appoint their state’s insurance regulator.
All told, the insurance industry has pumped more than $6 million into political efforts aimed at those dozen races, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of IRS records and data collected by the National Institute on Money in State Politics.
And the insurers aren’t shy about their involvement.
“Legislatures are considering legislation every day that affects our industry and our policyholders,” said Paul Blume, senior vice president of state government relations for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. “We need to be engaged not only on the legislative side but on the executive side, in governor races and commissioner races.”
His group has already given at least $200,000 to organizations seeking to elect governors this year.
The industry’s robust political giving is a critical part of a larger influence operation aimed at affecting the sleepy world of insurance regulation. A Center for Public Integrity investigation this month found a pattern of coziness between state insurance commissioners and the insurers they regulate, involving lavish dinners, corporate-backed trips to luxury resorts and the implicit promise of industry jobs once commissioners leave office.