STATE FARM'S HEAD ON A PLATTER
What Gulf Coast Congressman Gene Taylor wanted the Easter Bunny to bring him.
South Mississippi Living 4/07

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Musgrove’s Ties to Big Insurance Smell to High Heaven

by Ana Maria

When it comes to seeing clearly the insurance industry’s responsibility in creating the economic devastation it caused South Mississippi’s Katrina-ravaged home and business owners, former Governor Ronnie Musgrove can’t see past the end of his paycheck. Since July 2004, Musgrove has been on the payroll of the law firm Copeland, Cook, Taylor & Bush, the same law firm that Gulf Coast News reported “is involved what with almost every Mississippi insurance case.” And not on the side of home and business owners, either.

Greg Copeland, the firm's founding member, is “ a longtime lobbyist for the insurance industry” . . . and the attorney for the American Insurance Association . . . and State Farm . . . and the recently ousted state insurance commissioner George Dale, who refers to Copeland as a “ good friend.”

With Ronnie Musgrove on the payroll of the very law firm of hired guns that have helped the insurance companies swindle us out of the insurance money owed us on our wind policies . . . on the payroll of the law firm of hired guns that defend insurance companies as they betray our families here in South Mississippi, Musgrove cannot authentically claim he will go to Washington, DC, and fight for us . . . while deliberately remaining on the other team's payroll. That's kinda like Colonel Sanders pretending that he can champion the cause of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Not gonna happen.

This is a classic conflict of interest. No amount of pretending otherwise is going to make it any different. No spinning. No political messaging. None. Get it?! Good grief!

Does Musgrove really believe that the citizens of South Mississippi would cast their votes for a man who is in bed with the insurance companies that have hurt us? Regardless of whether we are Democrats like Congressman Gene Taylor or Republicans like U.S. Senator Trent Lott, each of whom lost their homes and had to retain a lawyer to fight their insurance companies, mention the word "insurance" and the anger and hostility that boils over immediately comes forth like a volcanic eruption!?!?!?!

Last August, Gary Anderson succeeded in ousting George Dale, whose cozy relationship with the insurance industry didn’t pass the smell test. At the end of election night voters denied Dale the insurance commissioner’s office he had held for 32 years. Musgrove’s cozy relationship with the law firm that defended George Dale, State Farm
the state's largest homeowner insurance company when Katrina hit, and the American Insurance Association—the insurance industry’s trade association—isn’t going to fare any better in passing the smell test in this election either.

Down here along the state's Gulf Coast, our expert noses always know when something smells fishy. So good are our noses that we can smell the stench a mile or two away. That fishiness is something that Musgrove’s cologne cannot cover.

Contrast this to the ever popular Congressman Gene Taylor, whose only reason to smell fishy is, well, because the man went fishing. With Congressman Gene Taylor, we know that what-you-see-is-what-you-get. He's honest and works effectively to make our lives better. Being open and honest, direct and upfront like he is gains respect and appreciation down here on the coast of Mississippi. In this way, Taylor has spoiled us.

We have been blessed to have Gene Taylor as our representative, a heroic public servant who lost everything in Katrina, whose insurance company (Snake Farm) screwed him and his family by failing to pay a penny before resorted to suing the company, a man whose own constituents continue to experience the same level of anguish and betrayal from the insurance industry that he and his family have experienced.

We are blessed because Congressman Gene Taylor pulled out from the depths of his soul an indefatigable strength to carry on personally and professionally to champion this cause, battling successfully the insurance industry that no one thought possible to obtain a single victory. Taylor embarked on this alleged no-win battle for one forthright reason: to ensure that America’s families and businesses all over the country never again are exposed to the ravages of corporate greed that has become so apparent in our nation’s insurance industry. For his vision, his courage, his ingenuity—and that of his staff, South Mississippians like myself are eternally grateful.

Taylor is clear about his loyalties. He took on FEMA and the insurance industry. He has no conflicts of interest. Moreover, he doesn't even have the appearance of a conflict of interest that could interfere with doing an outstanding job on behalf of his South Mississippi constituents.

This is NOT the case with Ronnie Musgrove. A quick call to Copeland, Cook, Taylor & Bush (601-856-7200) confirms that Musgrove remains with the law firm that has housed the pit bull attorneys, the hired guns for the very insurance industry that continues to betray South Mississippi's families and business owners—particularly small business owners. Sure, the man doesn't work on insurance related cases. But that is of no consequence.

In Politicsas in Regular Life, Perception is Reality
When I worked for the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury as a legislative performance auditor, our ethical standards were so high that we could not even have the APPEARANCE of a conflict of interest with any state agency whose audit on which we may be assigned. Period. Not even the appearance of a conflict of interest. This, of course, is as it should be.

Musgrove doesn't pass that same ethical standard, and that will cost him down here in South Mississippi.

If he had been serious about supporting—rather than merely giving lip service to—insurance reform, he would have immediately resigned from the Copeland law firm as soon as he finalized his decision to run for this office.

Then, he would have distanced himself from the firm and strongly disavowed its practice of helping the insurance industry destroy the financial well-being of South Mississippi families and businesses throughout the Katrina ravaged region.

However, he remained and continues to remain on the payroll of the insurance industry’s hired guns, Copeland, Cook, Taylor & Bush, the defenders of insurance companies, those two-fisted greedy gutted goons.

He has not distanced himself from the firm nor has he disavowed its horrific defense of the insurance industry that is single-handedly strangling the financial well-being of South Mississippi.

In the words of the famous TV Marine character Gomer Pyle: For shame! For shame! For shame!

To capture substantial numbers of votes here in South Mississippi would require Musgrove to "get religion" where insurance reform ties into Katrina recovery is concerned. While election year conversion has its challenges, it at least gives voters some indication that there is a recognition that the candidate may be beginning to come around. Musgrove hasn't gotten religion, and frankly at this point it is too late.

With Musgrove deep in the pockets of the law firm that houses the attorneys for George Dale, State Farm, and the American Insurance Association—the insurance industry’s trade association—there is no way that he can be genuine in mouthing the magic words of insurance reform. The likelihood that he would go to Washington, DC, and become a champion for insurance reform in the vein of Congressman Gene Taylor—or even like Senator Lott—is about as likely as Colonel Sanders becoming a vegetarian and actively supporting PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). Since Colonel Sanders is dead, the likelihood of that coming to pass is zilch—the exact number of times Musgrov'es official kick off speech mentioned insurance reform or Katrina recovery.

Musgrove's connection to the law firm defending those two-fisted greedy gutted goons is reality. He remains on its payroll. Just call the law firm to confirm. The perception of its meaning may be up to debate.

For us down here, though, we're not going to be listening to that debate. All we'll be thinking is how the dots connect: "Insurance companies . . . State Farm . . . George Dale . . . Ronnie Musgrove."

No amount of Musgrove’s snake oil salesman, smooth-talking mumbo jumbo—even if it is delivered with his soft Southern accent—is going to overcome the fact that he is a member of the law firm that defended George Dale, that represents State Farm, that houses the hired guns for the insurance industry. (Have I said that a time or two? I guess the whole thing just sticks in my craw.) We just don't cotton to that very well down here.

Getting "Insurance Reform Religion" Online
To get the flavor of the area's palpable disgust over insurance companies and all who enable their betrayal, to get the flavor of the absolute importance of insurance reform to both home and business owners, all someone has to do go to Taylor's website and view the online videos of last August’s Insurance Reform Town Hall Meeting that Congressman Gene Taylor hosted before a standing-room only crowd right here in my home town of Bay St. Louis, Miss.,—one of three tiny beach towns comprising ground zero for Katrina's most devastating blows.

Taylor’s website has six video clips from this important meeting, clips that drive home this very point.

Tish Haas Williams, the county chamber’s executive director, provides case study after case study regarding how insurance has been the most difficult recovery challenge for South Mississippi's small businesses.

With his daughter Rosie at his side, Dr. Wesley McFarland brings down the standing room only crowd with his humorous way of telling his Katrina-related troubles with Big Insurance.

Hancock Bank Board Chair George Schloegel speaks to the need for Congress to pass multiple peril insurance legislation that South Miss. Congressman Gene Taylor sponsored. Schloegel stated that the insurance industry has proven that the private sector cannot take care of itself.

Dave Dennis, owner of Specialty Contractors and member of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board, discusses the reasons the Mississippi Gulf Coast has been so slow in rebuilding.

David Treutel, Jr., President of Treutel Insurance Agency in Bay St. Louis, Miss., and Vice Chair of the Mississippi Wind Pool, explains the post-Katrina impact on affordable insurance rates and the inability of state wind pool agencies to absorb the risk that private insurance carriers have left.

And Taylor himself explains the controversial "concurrent causation" clause that is buried in homeowner policies, the clause that insurance companies have used to deny homeowners' claims for wind-related damages to their properties.
In addition to these riveting videos, Taylor’s website includes plenty of photos on the event as well. Particularly telling are the snapshots of the chamber’s presentation on the impact on small businesses that out-of-control insurance costs have had in stopping economic development in arguably the most hard hit county in the Katrina-ravaged region. Taylor’s website is Insurance Reform Central.

Clearly, with these kind of resources freely and readily available, any one can quickly become well educated on the importance of insurance reform to the restoration of the Gulf Coast. Reading through Taylor's website, looking through the many articles and editorials from around the country that his site posted, watching the videos, and looking through the photo gallery will help anyone "get religion" where insurance reform is concerned.

The Heavenly Scent of Hypocrits
For Musgrove to come to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, stand on a slab to announce his candidacy as he did, and only utter the words "Katrina recovery" and "insurance reform" when a member of the press put him on the spot, is the height of arrogance . . . or political stupidity. What hubris! That Musgrove stood on the slab of a church adds insult to injury and further solidifies the conclusion that the man is just not going to get religion where Katrina and insurance are concerned.

There is a special word for those who speak empty words and act in ways contrary to their words: hypocrites. With FEMA and the insurance industry pulling the wool over our eyes within the last few years down here in Katrina Land, we don’t take kindly to hypocrites—particularly of the political persuasion. And we can sure smell 'em a mile or two away.

Those of us who cast the ballots in this election will continue to employ the nose test of politics to sniff out the stench of hypocritical candidates who fail to get religion connecting the dots between a vibrant post-Katrina recovery and insurance reform. As far as my own political nose goes, however, Mosgrove’s hypocritical ties to Big Insurance smell to high heaven.

© 2007 Ana Maria Rosato. All rights reserved.
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