Hey Consumer Watchdog, It’s Only Ok If You Are a Republican? Get it?

Consumer Watchdog in Middle of Fight for Insurance Rate Regulation

by Brian Leubitz

Consumer Watchdog (CW) has more than its share of enemies.  While most normal Californians have very little idea who they are, the denizens of the Capitol are not really normal, are they? They have a pretty good idea of who they are.

They have enemies from the 2007 health care fight, where California ended up with no health care reform package, partly because the left didn’t want to be complicit with Gov. Schwarzenegger’s plan.  You see, fellow progressives, we are supposed to stand by while the “adults” do all the negotiating and then cheer when we get some scraps.  By adults I mean, the corporate right, the Tea Party, and the center-right Democrats.  So, you know, “serious” people.

It turns out that when CW helped out with blowing up that 2007 process, there were some hard feelings. And these things linger in Sacramento.  Of course, for Consumer Watchdog, it is hardly the first time they’ve pissed anybody off.

Fast forward to this year, when AB 52, health insurance rate regulation is up in the Senate. It ultimately fails, and Sen. Ed Hernandez, the chair of the Healthcare committee that ultimately passes it to the full Senate, catches some flack.  Hernandez didn’t ultimately support the bill in the full Senate, or at least he has said as much.  Consumer Watchdog then proceeded to put out a TV spot attacking Sen. Hernandez.

The spot was pretty hardhitting, and Asm. Feuer and IC Dave Jones have distanced themselves from it.  However, what is interesting now is that the focus doesn’t seem to be on the issue itself anymore, but rather that vague sense of transparency.  You see, like the Chamber of Commerce and other organizations, CW keeps some of their contributors private.

Thornier than the fees is the disclosure of individual donors who fund Consumer Watchdog, It is  widely believed – and some within Consumer Watchdog have confirmed it over the years – that much of its money comes from the trial bar. The group receives individual donations from the public, money from foundations, money from settlements that go into affiliated foundations for education and outreach that provide money to the main group and money from labor and other groups.

But individually, just who gives what is not available, Court said, “the donors can get harassed by politicians because people like us run ads about their (the politicians’) conflict of interest,” he said. He said nondisclosure as a civil rights tool, much as nondisclosure was important to the NAACP to protect its donors.

But critics of Consumer Watchdog are not convinced, saying the group is hypocritical for not disclosing donors while demanding full disclosure from those it attacks.(Capitol Weekly)

Or, in other words, you can’t advocate for good government unless you are a perfect teacher’s pet. But if you are advocating for giveaways to corporations? Well, no need to tell us who you are working for. We sure they are all just “job creators” trying to …ummm…exploit labor to increase their own capital or something like that.  But hey, it’s capitalism…so that’s awesome!

Do we need some control over the funding of political? Yes, desperately. But the Left can’t be forced to give up the tools and play on a different playing field as the Right.

One thought on “Hey Consumer Watchdog, It’s Only Ok If You Are a Republican? Get it?”

  1. The reason Consumer Watchdog opposed the DEMOCRATIC health care bill in 2007 (the one supported by AFSCME, Health Access, AARP and just about every other progressive group) was because it was paid to do so. According to U.S. Department of Labor records, it received a $50,000 “donation” from the California Nurses Association.

    FPPC records now show that Consumer Watchdog has received $500,000 for its current attacks on AB 52.

    Let’s remember that Senator Hernandez is a progressive Democrat, with almost perfect scores from progressive groups. The acts were so outrageous that the bill’s sponsors and backers, Assemblyman Mike Feuer and Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, tried to distance themselves from Consumer Watchdog’s action. For the record, Senator Hernandez voted FOR the bill to move it out of committee (where it could have died). Kaiser, which CW accused of him of helping, also was the main opponent of Senator Hernandez’s main bill (SB 703) to establish a basic health plan (another measure supported by progressive groups).

    The difference between what the right does and what Consumer Watchdog does is that Consumer Watchdog bills itself as a consumer group. Unlike Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of California, Consumer Watchdog has no members and does nothing constructive to move pro-consumer legislation forward. All it does is collect special interest contributions for its work. It’s known as “pay to play,” and its bad on the left and right.

    Consumer Watchdog pays its founder more than $600,000 a year and he lives in a house worth nearly $2 million. Does that sound typical for those of us who work hard for progressive causes?

    It should also be pointed out that Consumer Watchdog opposed President Obama’s health care bill — legislation supported by nearly all progressive groups and Democrats.

    Consumer Watchdog gives progressive groups a bad name because of its actions and the way is funded. There’s no reason to defend them.

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