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California Republican Party: Sold for $1 Million

A billionaire insurance baron who has made a name for himself as an antagonist of justice, fairness and consumer protections has earned, well, bought, the California Republican Party’s endorsement for his ballot measure. Mercury Insurance Chairman George Joseph has already spent more than $8 million just to get on the November ballot, so what’s another million if it boosts his plan to surcharge drivers by as much as $1,000 a year? The surcharge would hit Republicans as well as Democrats, but it looks like $1 million was too much for the cash-starved California GOP to refuse.

Joseph’s ballot measure would increase auto premiums by as much as 40% on millions of Californians seeking renewed auto insurance.  Those most affected include graduating students entering the workforce, Californians who previously used mass transit, and the long-term unemployed who are finally getting back to work, and thought they could afford insurance again.  Californians would be surcharged when a new job, move or some other circumstance required them to buy insurance again after not needing it for a time. This will cost good drivers as much as $1,000 a year or more just because they took a hiatus from driving an automobile. 

“Forbes 375th” billionaire Joseph has been the party’s largest single donor for at least the past two years. In 2010, when the Republican Party endorsed Joseph’s prior attempt to pass the same auto insurance surcharge initiative, Joseph donated $1 million to the Republican Party.  He donated another $1 million in October 2011, just as he was putting together the new ballot proposal, a near clone of the 2010 failure.

Joseph, who is both founder and chairman of Mercury Insurance, has already contributed more than $8.2 million to his new ballot measure. That’s 99.4% of the total donations received by the initiative’s committee, and most of the rest comes from Mercury Insurance agents.

Maybe a billionaire can buy the California Republican Party for cheap. But voters are surely smart enough to know that a corporate baron doesn’t spend more than $9 million (and more to come) just to do something nice for his company’s customers or the people of California.