What Gulf Coast Congressman Gene Taylor wanted the Easter Bunny to bring him.
South Mississippi Living 4/07

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Ending Corporate Looting on the Gulf Coast

 Ending Corporate Looting on the Gulf Coast

by Ana Maria

Recently, a man got four years in prison for burglarizing a neighbor’s home to loot it right after Katrina. What kind of jail time will the insurance industries’ corporate cronies get for deliberately contriving to steal the claims money from policyholders in the Katrina-ravaged areas that crossed three states: Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama?

Here in Mississippi, we have two state officials responsible for holding these corporate crooks accountable to the people. We have State Attorney General Jim Hood who is doing his job to bring justice to the people of Mississippi, and we’re grateful to him for his strength and fortitude in the face of tremendous pressure to go along to get along—a position of weakness, for sure.

We also have State Insurance Commissioner George Dale, whose idea of justice is more of an insurance insiders “Just Us” mentality.

Dale’s own words portray a man in the back pocket of the insurance industry.

Katrina was “the worst natural disaster in U.S. history . . . and put an undue burden on insurance companies. . . .
Mississippi Insurance Commissioner George Dale

What a lovely sentiment coming from a public official who should be the first defender for us as policyholders. Those words should be put on bill boards, television ads, and radio spots throughout South Mississippi. What a betrayal this man has wrought upon the families and business owners inside Katrina Land.

Of course, it would be unrealistic for us to expect a man who is in the pocket of the insurance industry to be our protector against the industry’s fraudulent practices.

"We take money from anybody who is interested in good government.''
Mississippi Insurance Commissioner George Dale

Who are these folks interested in “good government”?

Miss. Commissioner Dale Raised 40% of Campaign Funds from Insurers
Insurance Journal

And that was in 2006.

Dale: A Democrat? An Independent? A Dino?
Earlier this year, the Mississippi Democratic Party leadership stood up to Dale voting to strip him of the ability to run as a Democrat. Dale had publicly campaigned on behalf of Bush and Cheney in 2004. To fight being prohibited from claiming himself to be a Democrat, Dale hired Greg Copeland, a big time insurance industry lobbyist attorney—and a Republican—to represent him in court.

Simultaneously, Dale’s Republican attorney argued that the Democratic Party MUST allow Dale to run as a Democrat AND that Dale ought to be allowed to run as an Independent because he can’t win as a Democrat. Huh?!

Dale pulled the ultimate Lieberman, as in U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman who ran on the Lieberman Political Party of Connecticut—or some such nonsense—when the Connecticut Democrats voted Ned Lamont as their Democratic nominee last year sending Lieberman packing his bags. Lieberman then started his own political party and accepted help from the Karl Rove wing of the Republican Party. Dale apparently took a page out of Lieberman’s playbook. I’m a Democrat! I’m an Independent! I’m a DINO! (Democrat in Name Only)

Conflicts, Conflicts Everywhere
On its website, Copeland’s law firm brags about its prominence within the insurance industry.

"The firm serves as general counsel to Mississippi's largest property and casualty insurer and as local counsel for numerous other insurance companies. The American Insurance Association selected the head of the firm's insurance practice group to serve as Mississippi counsel for the Association."

Regarding the fact that he was being represented by a big insurance lobbyist attorney, Dale said
I don’t see any conflict.

Apparently, the man is blind. Too bad it is not in the way that Justice is blind.

In another glaring example of Dale’s cozy conflict-of-interest ridden relationship with the insurance industry, he allowed State Farm to pick up the tab for the attorney who was helping Dale’s Deputy Insurance Commissioner Harrell prepare for a deposition in a lawsuit that the Scruggs Katrina Group was bringing against . . . State Farm. Ding! Ding! Ding! By now, alarms should be going off in a major way.

Yes, you read that correctly.

State Farm was paying the attorney fee for the lawyer helping the Mississippi Deputy Insurance Commissioner prepare for his testimony under oath and representing him at the proceedings in one of the large lawsuits that Mississippi policyholders are bringing against . . . State Farm.

Can you believe it?! Talk about the fox guarding the hen house!! But this is really more like a criminal defense team paying the salary of the local prosecuting attorney assigned to its case. What a whopper of a conflict of interest.

Here’s a guide to the deposition and links to the deposition itself. The only reason we found out this horrifyingly awful but important piece of information is because the Scruggs Katrina Group deposed Deputy Commissioner Harrell as part of its ongoing case of Thomas and Pamela McIntosh vs State Farm. The SKG website characterizes the Harrell deposition as “one of the most eye-popping depositions our group has ever seen.” Now that’s saying something.

You know, most of us think of the insurance commission as a consumer advocate, the place where we can turn for real assistance when an insurance company isn’t treating us or our family members fairly. Unfortunately, Dale acts as if his job is to advocate on behalf of the insurance companies.

Are we in good hands with George Dale? Hardly. The man is a walking betrayal of public trust. And in a matter of days, with some effort, George Dale can be sent his walking papers when the voters go to the polls on Tuesday, August 7th.

Like George Dale’s only Democratic opponent Gary Anderson says. "You can't protect the pocketbook of consumers, if you are in the pocketbook of insurance companies."

Indeed, indeed. To bring good old-fashioned, mom and apple pie kind of justice to the people of South Mississippi, we can raise a little political hell! You know what that means. If you are a registered voter inside of Mississippi Vote. Inside or out contribute. Inside or out volunteer.

Turning out for this election to turn out our current insurance commissioner—who thinks he is in the business of carrying water for corporate insurance executives, is the way we stop George Dale’s permissive reign of corporate looting.

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