Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

AP overviews the Referendum 67 battle

And concludes that "the nastiness...may just be getting under way":
In one corner, insurers have conjured up the jackpot-seeking stereotype of trial lawyers, asserting that failure to defeat the referendum will be a guarantee for higher insurance rates.

Trial lawyers counter with tales of callous insurance firms hanging innocent ratepayers out to dry for a few dirty dollars of extra profit.

In the end, voters may essentially be choosing which side they find to be less despicable.
Ah, the "voters-as-victims" narrative. We've seen this before: it's often trotted out when different interests line up against each other, as in 2005 with the medical malpractice initiatives (I-330 and I-336).

But Referendum 67 is not an initiative. It is a public vote forced by the insurance industry on a consumer protection law passed by our Legislature. Trial lawyers are supporting the Approve 67 campaign because they believe in consumer protection (if they didn't, why would they be trial lawyers? Because they can make money? One can make a lot more as an insurance industry executive.)

Trial lawyers are in reality public protection attorneys who are looking out for the common good. And laws that allow consumers to sue massive megacorporations for large amounts of money because of mistreatment or breach of an agreement exist to ensure justice. The insurance industry would love to cap the amount of damages that can be collected in lawsuits, because then the industry can factor lawsuits into the cost of doing business.

The whole point of tort lawsuits is to have a last line of defense that dissuades irresponsible companies from harming the public.

The insurance industry, by attempting to repeal this law, is trying to escape accountability and responsibility.

Reading this article, you can easily get the impression that is simply a war of special interests. But it's not. This is an insurance industry ploy to trick voters into repealing a necessary law that safeguards consumers. The industry is astroturfing, using the front group "Consumers Against Higher Insurance Rates" to scare voters into voting no on Referendum 67.

Trial lawyers are working to educate the electorate and approve Referendum 67, but they're not alone. Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler is on board, as is Governor Christine Gregoire and a long list of organizations, from the Washington State Firefighters to the Washington State Senior Citizens' Lobby. The Approve 67 campaign is a coalition effort seeking to ensure that voters don't victimize themselves. The coalition is on everyone's side - well, everyone except the insurance companies.

AP reporter Curt Woodward didn't do a good job of explaining that this vote didn't have to happen. Referendum 67 wouldn't be on the ballot, except that insurance companies spent huge sums of money employing petitioners to buy themselves on. So whose fault is it that we're having this debate, that ads are running on television, that voters are going to have to decide this question?

It's State Farm's fault. Safeco's fault. Allstate's fault. Geico's fault. Nationwide's fault. St Paul Travelers' fault. These are the names of the major companies that wanted this referendum. They paid for it and they got it. Remember that when you're sitting down at the table to vote, or heading to your polling place.


Anonymous Maryanne said...

Finally, someone who tells it like it is.

September 24, 2007 10:40 PM  

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