Who Hijacked Our Country

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Insurance Industry Creates Fake “Grass Roots” Group

If you notice your insurance rates going up in the next few months, the culprit might be the insurance industry’s multi-million dollar sleaze campaign in Washington State. The money has to come from somewhere; and that would be You The Consumer.

The Washington state legislature has passed a law that allows people to sue their insurance company for triple damages if the company denies a valid claim. And the insurance industry is spending millions to trick voters into repealing this law.

It’s bad enough that the insurance industry is trying to buy their way out of doing their jobs. But the way they're going about it is even sleazier. Since they're the ones who wanted this issue to be on the ballot, you'd think the initiative that they got on the ballot (it’s called R-67) would require a Yes vote. However, it’s well known that the “No” side of an initiative has the advantage. If voters aren't totally clear on what an initiative means, they tend to vote No on it.

So the initiative is worded in such a way that it’s asking the voters if they want to keep this insurance law that’s already been passed. The insurance industry put their own initiative on the ballot so they could ask the voters to vote No on it. Pretty slick, huh?

Not surprisingly, the four insurance companies that have generated the most complaints are the largest contributors to the “No on-R-67” campaign.

Sen. Brian Weinstein, D-Mercer Island, the law’s main sponsor, said: "The complaints brought against them are just the tip of the iceberg. It seems to me $6 million is a fantastic investment if they can stop this from becoming law and continue to delay and deny claims."

The cloying smothering TV ads against R-67 are financed by a “grass roots” (i.e. Astroturf) group calling itself “Consumers Against Higher Insurance Rates.” As you've probably guessed, “Consumers Against Higher Insurance Rates” is comprised of — insurance companies. Slippery scumbags.

If you live in Washington State — or if you're within broadcasting range of a Washington TV station — you’ve gotta be sick to death of these TV ads. They're even worse than those fake-folksy Harry and Louise ads that blighted the airwaves when Clinton tried to expand health coverage.

Hopefully Washington’s voters will be smart enough to see through the smoke and mirrors.

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Blogger LET'S TALK said...

Great topic Tom, I'm glad that someone picked up on this.

Here's a couple of YouTubes with the commercial:


R-67 ll

October 13, 2007 at 10:34 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Let's Talk: Thanks for the links. Both of those ads are familiar to me. But I hope some non-Washington residents will click on them to see how absurd this ad campaign is. The insurance companies trying to disguise themselves as Ward Cleaver or Alice the Waitress -- LOL. And yet voters keep falling for phony "grass roots" campaigns like this. I hope it doesn't happen again.

Thanks again for the links.

October 13, 2007 at 11:21 PM  
Blogger Praguetwin said...

Wow, that is a new low. Very slick indeed. They have gotten around the "I just vote no on all initiatives" barrier.

I always thought it would be a good law that people collecting the signatures to get an initiative on the ballot couldn't be paid. This would prevent, in large part, industry sponsored initiatives from making it on the ballot.

But the worst part is the celebrities that sign on to be on the commercials like Angela Lansbury. Scum.

October 14, 2007 at 2:13 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

PragueTwin: Yup, definitely a new low. I think some states have passed laws against paid signature-gatherers, but the laws have been overturned. But I think there should be a law that whoever puts an initiative on the ballot -- that group's position is the Yes vote.

I know California has a law that 2 unrelated issues can't be on the same ballot measure. Several initiatives have been tossed out on those grounds. I think it should be illegal on the same grounds for an organization to put a measure on the ballot with the purpose of voting No on it.

If this tactic succeeds, it'll become the standard method.

October 14, 2007 at 10:52 AM  
Blogger Candace said...

The rewording of propositions seems to be SOP here in Texas, so it's no surprise to me, for one, that the insurance people would do the same.

My hubster just changed jobs, and now we're going to have an HMO. Although it's better than nothing, we're not looking forward to it.

October 14, 2007 at 12:50 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Candace: Good luck with your HMO. They work fine for millions of people. It's just that if you're one of those people who fall through the cracks, there's hardly any recourse. The insurance industry just has too much power and not enough accountability.

October 14, 2007 at 3:28 PM  
Blogger LET'S TALK said...

Tom you said it; "The insurance industry just has too much power and not enough accountability."

Just how do we allow these kind of propositions to be put on the ballot, while at the same time. "WE" know that the commercials that are put out of from their comapnies.

Then those that don't really pay attention go right out and vote for this kind of sickness by the insurance companies.

October 14, 2007 at 7:49 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Let's Talk: You're right. I have no idea why voters keep falling for these corporate sleaze campaigns over and over. You'd think that the 200th time this happens they'd see the pattern and quit being fooled. But it hasn't happened yet. Every time some corporate front group starts broadcasting a bunch of folksy ads, the public falls for it.

Voters need to have more common sense and less gullibility. Unfortunately I don't know how that's gonna happen.

October 14, 2007 at 8:27 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

I wish there was some way to keep all that special interest money from out-of-state groups out of local ballot initiatives. Here in Oregon now it's Measure 50, which proposes to raise cigarette taxes to help pay for childrens' health insurance. Tobacco industries have contributed $9 million to an anti-Measure-50 campaign, with some slick television ads that twang on the "no new taxes" string, among other things. It's pretty sad, really. We have also dealt with outside groups financing anti-gay ballot measures and anti-public-employee measures. Outside groups seem to be always trying to outlaw Oregon's assisted suicide measure which has been passed twice by voters.

I will go check out the YouTube links LT provided... sigh...

What's the name of the ballot measure bozo in Washington, is it Tim Iman? Here in Oregon we have had Bill Sizemore putting up ballot measure after ballot measure designed to cut into public employees' retirement and rights, workers' unions, and other things he doesn't like. Luckily he was derailed a bit by racketeering charges brought by the Oregon Education Association (of which I am a proud member, BTW). He was using false signatures, paying people to collect signatures, etc. Sizemore continues to fight this one in court, but what the legal issues have done is to keep him out of a few election cycles; this allows voters to get a breath of fresh air, step back, and examine issues more closely. Sizemore hasn't promoted anti-gay legislation as far as I know, but without Sizemore and his measures pushing voters' anger buttons in the state's political arena, the anti-gay folks have failed twice this year to get their measures onto the November ballot. Sizemore has been highly influential in Oregon, even when it comes to conservative topics of interest in which he is not actively pursuing changes...

Prior to a measure Sizemore et al passed a number of years ago, Oregon schools no longer receive their funding through property tax money. Voters were duped into passing the measure through the usual rightwing "land use" and "land rights" trickery, and since then schools have had to scrape to get by, eliminating numerous programs and teaching positions... as class sizes increase. This measure offered no alternative funding source at all, it was just a "We're taking the money away from you, and it's up to you to figure out how to replace it." He also sponsored measures which would have made it illegal for teachers to make an automatic union contribution going from one year to the next, measures which eliminated teacher tenure, and which cut into the Public Employees Retirement System, emotionally painting as the primary culprit in Oregon's budget woes.

If he and his buddies are that jealous of the public sector, I have to say to them "Why didn't you get a public sector job in the first place?" Oh well...

Can Washington do anything about Iman or whatever his name is?

October 15, 2007 at 11:32 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Snave: Ah yes, Tim Eyman, you've heard of him. I've only been in Washington for just over 3 years, but his name is ubiquitous. The few pictures of him I've seen, he looks just like that dorky comedian who was in several Seinfeld episodes; the one who kept saying "I've been working out. I'm huge" and "the best, Jerry. The best!"

I haven't heard of Bill Sizemore, but I guess every state has to have a thorn in its side. I wouldn't even mind these penny-pinching anti-tax people if they were at least consistent. But they completely ignore Iraqmire and the war on drugs; all they do is complain about the money being "wasted" on mass transit or benefits for public employees. A few years ago one of those "taxpayer" groups in Bellingham, WA was trying to prevent any tax money from going to libraries. WTF?

As far as rightwing groups putting anti-gay measures on the ballot, don't get me started.

But I think the slipperiest thing about this referendum in Washington is how the insurance companies got this onto the ballot with the specific purpose of asking voters to vote No on it. I don't know how this is legal. The advantage has always gone to the side who's against a ballot measure, because people tend to vote No if they're in doubt. So now an industry group has found a way to make an end run around this. I think it sucks.

You're right about Oregon's assisted suicide law; it's always under attack from some neocon Bible group. I've done several posts about that (not recently).

October 15, 2007 at 3:59 PM  
Blogger J. Marquis said...

There needs to be more transparency when it comes to these "grass roots" groups. Thanks for the info, Tom!

October 15, 2007 at 5:24 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

J. Marquis: Absolutely. It's too bad the public keeps falling for these folksy TV ads sponsored by a corporate front group.

October 15, 2007 at 7:11 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

If we are less informed, we will ask fewer questions of the rightwingers. If we watch more television, we are less informed. Etc. etc. ad nauseum. These quotes by Ray Bradbury pretty much sum up the "no tax monies going to libraries" mentality for me:

"There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them."

"The television, that insidious beast, that Medusa which freezes a billion people to stone every night, staring fixedly, that Siren which called and sang and promised so much and gave, after all, so little."

"There is more than one way to burn a book."

I think this is the best one:

"You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them."

October 16, 2007 at 3:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Snave: Great quotes. I wonder if some rightwing thinktanker saw those quotes 30 years ago and thought "how can we make this happen?"

Just get people to stop reading (or thinking) and spend more time staring at the TV. Presto -- we've got a nation of sheep.

October 16, 2007 at 4:29 PM  
Blogger Mentarch said...

Duplicity and mendacity know no bounds ... especially where "sharks" (figurative and literal ones) are involved.

October 16, 2007 at 6:52 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Mentarch: Yup, duplicity and mendacity, that's what's involved here.

October 16, 2007 at 6:54 PM  

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