Campaign fliers opposing Assembly candidate Ken Cooley call him a former insurance lawyer and lobbyist who continues to assist that industry in his Senate job, advising lawmakers how to vote on insurance bills. The Democrat is running against Republican Peter Tateishi in the 8th Assembly District, from Citrus Heights to south of Wilton. The following is an excerpt from a flier by Consumers for Choice, a group funded by Food4Less, and an analysis by The Bee's Jim Sanders of the allegations against Cooley:
Flier: Why are the big insurance companies and public employee unions spending so much money to elect Ken Cooley? Because he's one of theirs!
That's right the special interests get the best of both worlds if they elect Ken Cooley: A former lawyer for the big insurance companies who now draws a taxpayer-funded paycheck working for the Senate Insurance Committee.
He advises lawmakers how to vote on bills involving the insurance industry and then rakes in nearly $200,000 in contributions from the same industry, plus another $149,100 from public employee unions.
He's running to help his friends in the billion-dollar insurance industry.
A separate flier, by the Tateishi campaign, asks: "Will former insurance lobbyist Ken Cooley side with consumers over an industry that has lined his pockets?"
Cooley indeed is a former insurance company official whose campaign has received substantial support from that industry. But the attacks are misleading because they lack context.
Cooley was an attorney for State Farm Insurance from 1991 to 2008, but his last stint as a registered lobbyist was more than a decade ago the 1999-2000 session.
Cooley became principal consultant three years ago to the Senate committee that oversees insurance legislation.
His hiring sparked criticism by some political watchdogs, who claimed that insurance firms benefit when their members are hired by the Legislature to analyze bills affecting the industry.
The contention that Cooley's job is to advise lawmakers on insurance legislation is not true, however. Committee consultants analyze the pros and cons of bills, but they do not recommend a "yes" or "no" vote.
The insurance industry and public employee unions have supported Cooley's election with sums cited in the ad, but those totals pale in comparison with his top donor, the Democratic Party, which has given more than $2.5 million.
After Cooley announced his candidacy last December, he remained with the Senate insurance committee for two months but did not analyze bills. He became legislative director to the committee chair, Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, on Feb. 22. He currently is on unpaid leave.