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So many campaign dollars, so little to show for them

George Joseph Much has been written about how many millions of dollars Meg Whitman blew on her campaign for governor. But what about all the money George Joseph spent in vain?

Joseph is the founder of Mercury General, the insurance company that spent $16 million trying to sell Proposition 17 to California voters in June. The proposition, which would have allowed insurers to lure their rivals' customers with discounts that new drivers and the uninsured couldn't obtain, was defeated, but Joseph wasn't deterred. He poured $775,000 of his own money  into the California Chamber of Commerce's JobsPAC during the fall campaign, helping to fund the political action committee's independent effort to elect Republican Mike Villines of Clovis as insurance commissioner.

Unfortunately for Joseph, Democrat Dave Jones of Sacramento won that race handily. It's understandable why the Mercury founder wouldn't care for Jones -- the former state Assemblyman opposed Proposition 17, and he's pushed to give the state more regulatory power over insurers. Villines probably would have taken a less adversarial approach to the industry than Jones.

But Jones and his allies made much of the insurance industry's behind-the-scenes support for JobsPAC's efforts to elect Villines, hoping to turn it into an albatross. Chances are that it wasn't a decisive factor -- most of the other GOP candidates for statewide office lost by margins similar to Villines'. Still, the suggestion that the industry was trying to pick him to be its regulator couldn't have helped.

State campaign finance records show that Joseph and Mercury also contributed $5,000 each  to the campaign against Proposition 25 and for Proposition 26. The (significantly smaller) investment paid off when voters approved the latter, which requires a two-thirds vote to approve new state or local regulatory fees. But voters liked Proposition 25, too; it enables the Legislature to pass a budget by a simple majority vote.

-- Jon Healey

Photo: George Joseph, photographed at his office in 2006. Credit: Wally Skalij, Los Angeles Times



Comments () | Archives (8)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Mitchell Young

Hands down winner in the vote per campaign buck -- Alvin Greene. He got over 358,000 votes for his $10,000 filing fee. Under 3ยข a vote. He also carried 10 of the 46 South Carolina counties. Think of what he could have done with some party support!

Danny Noonan

Mercury apparently likes to waste its money. Consider that over the past 5 years the company has flushed some $100 million down the drain on a string of ineffective, ridiculous advertising campaigns. Combine that with the $17 million spent on the failed political campaigns, and Mercury's employees, agents and shareholders should be irate. This was once a fiscally conservative, careful, competitively priced insurer that churned healthy profits year after year. The company desperately needs new leadership.


Mitchell: Supporting Alvin Greene would have been like supporting Sharron Angle. When you know someone isn't qualified for office, you have a civic duty NOT to support their candidacy.

(I realize this notion is lost on Sara Palin and her supporters)


O.J.Simpson have a dream team of lawyers and got away with murder.
California elected a dream team of democracts with JERRY BROWN leading the way.
The only thing I see is nothing but PERDITION to your state,now you dont have a republican to blame for your misery.
California you are in a PYRRHIC situation you accomplished your wish.

Republican won the house of congress and hold the purse strings, now you dont have your sugar daddy (OBAMA)to come and rescue you from your budget (DOLDRUMS) he won't have the blessing of congress this time.
My predictions: CALIFORNIA HERE THEY COME,FRANCE,GREECE UNIONS RIOTS, not money for pension state workers,teachers,social programs for eligals welfare, firemens and police.Tax payers and business leavind due to tax raises leaving only the scourge of society.Oh I forgot my prediction will be realize after CALIFORNIA declare bankrupt.


Don't worry about these people "pouring" their money into campaigns that would advantage them. They'll still be able to afford dog food. After all, these are tax deductions. What they don't pay, the rest of us will have to pick up.

Ed Buck

"A fool and his money are soon parted" could apply to Meg Whitman, Carly what's her name, and/or King George Joseph.

I retired from the insurance underwriting business, so I took a special interest in this race. I met with Dave Jones and was bowled over by how intelligent and bright he was. I said that was the guy I want sitting across the table from the Insurance companies representing me.

Mitchell Young

Robert, that was a bit of a joke. But underlying the joke is an uncomfortable fact. According to CNN exit polling, 80% of African Americans voters in South Carolina voted for Alvin Greene.

Emile Zola

Not only that but so many unemployed. There ought to be law against this political and economical debauchery, waste.



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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

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