Category Archives: Election 2012

Rx: A Gridlock Remedy

America deserves better than a gridlocked congress                         Rx: More democracy

Some Americans are denied representation in the Congress          Rx: More democracy

All Americans lack equal representation in the Congress                  Rx: More democracy

Too few eligible Americans vote                                                               Rx: More democracy

Suggestions for reducing; Legislative Gridlock, Divisiveness & Representational Disparities while increasing Citizen Participation

The US constitution written centuries ago needs a major overhaul to be fully functional in the 21st century.  When it was written geographic proximity was sufficient commonality for common representation of 33,000 person congressional districts, today the average is 713,000 persons per district. Source:…  Today individuals have a unique set of personal political imperatives; each voter has a different set of reasons, each weighted by judgment, for making political decisions.  Having representatives in the legislature based on geographic districts makes for a poor set of choices for today’s voters. If voters choose from a large assortment of at-large legislative candidates each voter could vote for a candidate who best represented and champions their individual political priorities.  Each candidate might be a champion with a specific set of priorities and will be attractive to voters with similar priorities.  More and better candidate choices improve democracy.

Why is more democracy needed?

Gridlock:  Congress is divided into two camps that will not agree on several issues.  It is a stalemate-standoff where neither camp really acts in the best interests of the country but instead acts in ways that will get them re-elected.  It looks like it is about to get worse – see  article at  Huffington Post.

Divisiveness: Millions of campaign dollars create advertising and promote divisive ideas, implying the opposition will do horrible things.  Divisive ideas harden the political base making if ever more difficult to find common ground.  When individuals having disparity views on specific issues meet personally they frequently find many things they can agree on.

Representational Disparities:  All Americans are not represented equally in congress, this is basically undemocratic.  Americans living outside the 50 states do not have a voting representative in congress.  Some congressional districts have as few as 568,000 population per congressional district and others districts as many as 900,000 with an average of 713,000.  In the 2012 election Republicans won a majority of the seats in the house although they received fewer votes than the Democrats.  The Washington Post reports “Democrats got 54,301,095 votes while Republicans got 53,822,442. That’s a close election – 48.8%-48.5% -but it’s still a popular vote win for the Democrats.”  Although voters favored Democrats by over half a million votes Republicans control the house, which is undemocratic.

Low Citizen Participation: Participation is low because candidates do not have sufficient appeal to the voters they are courting.  A geographic district with 700,000 residents frequently does not have local candidates that motivate a large number of voters to really support and campaign for them.  Many never see a candidate worth registering to vote for.  Of those registered many do not vote for the same reason, or lack of reason.  Increasing the choices to include the best champions the nation has to offer will motivate registration, voting and campaigning for candidates voters really feel strongly about, making America more democratic.

Prescription: Requiring constitutional amendment

1. Revoke corporate citizenship rights – reverse the Citizens United v FEC decision.  Make corporate participation in the political process an individual criminal offense.  See Wikipedia .

2. Allow legislation that limits political campaign contributions and requires true transparency. Overturn the money is free speech decision Buckley v. Valeo.  See Wikipedia

3. In the presidential elections the voters in the swing states have the power to swing the election; while the rest feel their votes don’t matter.  The Electoral College must be abolished and replaced with majority elections.  All registered US citizen can vote no matter where they live.  Today voters in PR, Washington DC, Guam and other US territory have no electoral votes, they don’t count.


Regarding electing congress:  In June of even number years a national congressional primary will be held.  Candidates that collect 5000 signatures from eligible voters will appear on the ballot.  All US citizens who register can vote for any of the qualifying candidates.  The 1000 candidates receiving the most votes in June proceed to the general election in November when any registered voter can vote for any of the 1000 candidates.  The 435 candidates with the most votes become the new congress.  When casting legislative votes in congress; the member will cast the number of votes equal to the number of voters who voted for the member minus those who voted against them.

Items 1, 2 & 3 occur before 4.  

A phase in plan that is not traumatic to the political process will be required.  Since this plan requires constitutional change it will take some time for it to be understood and reviewed by the public before it can be implemented.

Changes to the current Constitution – Parts of the Constitution that would require change:

Article 1 Section 2

No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.

Article 1  Section. 4.

The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of choosing Senators.

From Amendment 14, Section 2.

Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

Currently voters vote for a candidate and against another.  To fill the need to vote against a candidate there are several prescription possibilities:

• Every voter gets both a yes and no vote.  The no votes are deducted from the yes votes.  

• Every voter gets one vote which may be either a yes or no vote.  The no votes are deducted from the yes votes.

• Every voter just gets a yes vote.

How does the prescription address the symptoms?

This prescription addresses the issues of political parties with single digit registration percentages being able to muster enough votes to send someone to congress to represent their party’s agenda & priorities.

US citizens in Washington DC, Puerto Rico, Guam and other US territories who are not currently represented in congress under the current constitution would have voting representation.  All Americans will have voting representation in the congress. Rhode Island has 525,394 residents for its one house seat while Montana has 967,440.00 residents for its’ seat, the national average is 712,973 residents per house seat.  .  Source Datamaster.  All Americans will have equal representation if the prescription is filled and implemented.

220 million Americans are eligible to vote, 180 million are registered to vote and 120 million voted in 2012.  Of those who did vote; about half did not get their choice.  Those who voted for the winner frequently got what they thought of as the lesser of the evils anyway.  Many don’t vote because they are not sufficiently motivated by the choices of candidates they have on there ballots.  With 1000 choices they are more likely to find a candidate who fits the unique personal political imperatives and preferences of the individual voter.  More of those eligible to vote will find reason to register and vote with a better selection of candidates.  More campaigners will find candidates they feel are worth campaigning for, who are champions for the issues they feel strongly about.

Grassroots campaigning will be very effective since all voters may vote for any candidate.  Big money campaigning will big less effective since it addresses mass audiences.  Currently, big money campaigns focus on a few swing states and a few swing districts; making them effective.  Grassroots campaigners can try to convince individual voters who are the friends, family, co-workers and neighbors of the campaigners to vote for a specific candidate.  Grassroots campaigns increase democracy while big money campaigns are work against democracy.  Representatives elected by grassroots campaigns enjoy wide spread constituent support.

The elected representative will be using constituent votes every time the representative votes in congress.  That gives each vote a greater impact.  The voter is gratified knowing that his or her vote added to their representative political clout.  Most voters would have voted for someone who was elected, making them feel enfranchised rather than disenfranchised.  Currently, about half the voters who bother to vote, back a losing candidate.

Gridlock is a product of poor choices, money and manipulation.  With voters given what they see as poor choices with the current constitutional arrangement, they don’t vote or they can be convinced to vote for the lesser of the evils.  They are vulnerable to manipulation by expensive advertising.  They are subjected to negative attacks by candidate’s campaigns on each other because of the one on one nature of the congressional campaigns.  With 1000 candidates for 435 offices, one candidate does not have a specific adversary, no one to attack.  In the future, candidates might be forced to run on there own attributes, specific issues and positions.  During the campaigns champions for and against specific positions on an issue may debate.  

Champions for issues will emerge with the weight of the issue’s supporters’ votes.  The champion mix in congress will know exactly why their constituency voted for them.  In order to champion a specific agenda the champion will have to form alliances and end gridlock.  New coalitions will emerge for each issue rather than the voting/vetoing block that gridlocks today’s congress.  Issue champions might be free of party orthodoxy.  Currently debates turn into sniping attacks that are focused on embarrassing the other candidate rather than shedding light on issues.  Debates between opposing champions will be more substantive than they are today.

How will the prescription reduce gridlock?

The 80/20 rule will probably hold; 20% of the representatives will get 80% of the votes.  87 congressional representatives would have a sufficient numbers of votes to have voting relevance although all 435 would be allowed to participate on committees and take part in the debate of issues.  The top 87 or fewer would have sufficient votes to pass legislation; making it easier to create operative coalitions than with the current 435 geographically chosen representatives requiring 218 to agree.  The top few vote getters would have the most discretion over legislation and since they would be champions for specific issues they know who they represent and how those voters want them to vote.  The issues of greatest importance to voters will get the most congressional attention, as it should be in a democracy.

Today’s congress member purports to represent both those who voted for them and those who did not.  That becomes difficult when the interests of one constituent run contrary to another’s.  When champions go to congress they will represent those who voted for them and will be judged by those who might vote for them again.  Today congressional candidates frequently flip flop in an attempt to please all district constituents, it makes them seem dishonest, turning off voters.  Champions won’t flip flop to please disparate constituents.  

If a district resident has a problem today they may go to the local congressional office for help.  A constituent may ask their congressional representative for help on a specific issue.  If the representative does not hold the issue as a high enough priority as the constituent, they may do nothing or if they are opposed to the constituents’ position, they will certainly do nothing to help.  If a champion representative was approached for help on the issue that they champion they would try hard to be of help.  The champion is more likely to be an expert and have staff that is expert on the champion’s issues.  Today if a voter found a champion for their issue but the voter does not live in the representative’s district they will find it very difficult to make contact with the representative.

In order to move closer to a perfect union; constitutional change will be required, it has never come easy.  In the age of electronic media, democracy can come in ways never dreamed of centuries ago.  We live in the age of complex priorities, we need legislators that reflect those priorities and not balancing act candidates designed to garner the most votes in a geographic district.  New technologies make political information available at a level that could not be conceived centuries ago, that information and technology allows voters to make the wise choices that best fit individual political priorities.

What will it take to change the constitution?

From Article 5

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of it’s equal Suffrage in the Senate.

A new federal agency will be needed to administer nationwide elections.  The agency is needed not only to to run a national election but also because state voter administration has been corrupted and an agency with career public servants can be better relied on for an honest count.  

This proposal will take awhile before it can possibly be enacted; if there is no discussion started it may never happen.  Today there is no meaningful discussion about ending gridlock, only empty promises to try to play nice by the politicians.  There is no consideration of structural change.

What can you do?  This proposal is in infancy, it needs critiquing, polishing and framing.  There may be overlooked benefits and disincentives that might be pointed out.  Please leave a comment.

It’s Time For A Pundit Reckoning

Nationally, Nate Silver called 51 states and DC. In California, the polls accurately predicted the passage of Proposition 30 despite weeks of gloomy coverage from supposed experts who were apparently basing their entire narrative on a “tightening” of the polls happening after Labor Day-as if that was abnormal.

Or maybe it was that it was a tax measure polling under 50? Well, it was a school measure in the lead. So, the expertise there should have discerned which was a controlling factor, or, failing a conclusion, fallen back on the polling data, especially after premier instate pollster The Field Poll showed it up big last week.

Nope. They wanted to not only write their story about Prop 30 losing-and stories about the contingency plans school districts were making, a sort of fiscal equivalent of “it bleeds it leads”-but they wanted to write the political eulogy of Jerry Brown. They wanted to write the “Dems in disarray” story when Gavin Newsome made a factually accurate but politically selfish statement about the effect of Prop 30’s allegedly impending failure.

And they were almost gleeful early Tuesday night when it was behind in the early returns-again, showing their stupendoes non-expertise on this when they should have known that the result was far from certain with no results in from Alameda, LA, and SF counties.

This is just the “mainstream” and allegedly non-partisan press. The Jarvtards in the remnant formerly known as a political party that is the California GOP must be freaking out. They started the modern anti-tax measure with their self-immolating, selfish, corrupt, and myopic Prop 13. Now they must wonder whether Prop 30 is the beginning of a nationwide trend saying, “we’ve cut enough from our kids, our firefighters, and our future.” Now it’s time for the 1% to have less gold leaf on their yachts so we can train our children to work in the economy they so wildly benefit from.

Propositions have been the bane of California for so long. Proposition 13 spelled the beginning of the Me Generations Randian solipsism. Prop 187 showed the true lack of colors of the pathetic band of deadenders formerly known as a political party that is the California GOP. Proposition 8 was based on terrible slanders and showed just how dangerous direct democracy can be not just to the budget, but even to fundamental rights.

So it is only fitting somehow that it is a Proposition that turns the tide. Prop 13’s game-rigging two-thirds majority rules have one only exception: a statewide vote. And yesterday, Californians took advantage of that, using this terrible system against itself. We might even have made it moot by putting the Democrats beyond the minority blocking veto in the legislature. Just like all Americans, California voters have had enough obstruction.

But Dan Walters and the gang are just going to keep making false equivalencies between unions and corporations, Democratic politicking and Republican obstruction and cheating, between taking $100 from someone making $40,000 a year and someone making $4,000,000 a year because they are so cowardly, so afraid of the right-wing noise machine (assuming they are not part of it) claiming that they aren’t objective (the first commandment of J-school) that they will bend beyond the breaking point to retain a patina of objectivity.

California and the nation as a whole has rejected this approach wholesale and that is the lesson of this election. It wasn’t a statement that we are an entirely liberal state or country, but a statement that we want results and we don’t care much about what approach is used as long as it works. Obstruction gets nothing done, ever.

Please Vote No On Prop 33 Today

Stop Prop 33

For the last 25 years, I’ve worked day and night to keep insurance rates low here in California. That’s why I’m OPPOSED to PROP 33, the Mercury Insurance Company Initiative…and I need your help to get the word out.

Prop 33 will allow insurance companies to raise rates on good drivers who’ve done nothing wrong. It legalizes huge surcharges (hundreds, or even thousands of dollars) on consumers just because they did not previously have auto insurance – even if they didn’t own a car, or didn’t drive. Motorists would pay more if they had a lengthy lapse in coverage through no fault of their own – because they were sick or haven’t been able to get a job since the 2008 financial crash.

We all know the special interests are trying to steal the election today. But I still couldn’t believe it when I opened the Los Angeles Times this past weekend and saw a huge ad featuring two people claiming to be former state “insurance commissioners,” saying that Proposition 33 will help consumers. They both work for the insurance industry!

The billionaire chairman of Mercury Insurance, a company that has consistently misled regulators and broken state insurance rules, paid for that deceitful advertisement and the entire Prop 33 deceptive campaign. He’s spent $17 million so far. We don’t have the millions to fight back with our own ads. But you can help me defeat Prop 33 by warning your family and friends to VOTE NO ON PROP 33.

Forward this blog to them, or use this link to send them an email, post it on your Facebook page or tweet it before polls close tonight.

The Prop 33 surcharges were a huge problem back in the 1980s, and led to more uninsured motorists on the road and higher rates for everyone. That’s why, when I wrote Proposition 103 back in 1987, I put in a protection against these surcharges, and we Californians passed it. Proposition 33 actually repeals that protection.

Prop 33 will punish students, seniors, mass transit commuters, even military spouses and veterans.

Just ask yourself this question: When was the last time an insurance company and its executives put a proposition on the ballot to save you and me money?


In fact, a few days ago Mercury Insurance Chairman George Joseph admitted to a Los Angeles Times reporter that he’s just using the initiative process to make more money for himself and his company.

That’s why every major newspaper in California is urging people to vote NO on 33.

Just two years ago, California voters rejected a ballot measure by Mercury Insurance that was almost identical to Proposition 33.

We can beat them again today, but only if you help me get out the word today.

Please urge your family and friends to vote NO on Prop 33. Forward this blog to them, or use this link to send them an email, post it on your Facebook page or tweet it before the polls close tonight!

Thanks for all your support,

Harvey Rosenfield

Harvey Rosenfield

Founder of Consumer Watchdog

Prop 37 and Corporate Lies in the Post Truth Era

As a historic vote with profound implications for the future of our food system nears, the question becomes whether a campaign with limitless resources and a disdain for the truth can defeat an overwhelmingly popular idea supported by a grassroots army, and over 3000 public interest organizations: the right to know what’s in the food we eat and feed our families.

Poll after poll showed 90% of Americans (and Californians) favored labeling foods that have been genetically engineered (GMOs) and nearly a million signatures were gathered by California volunteers in just 10 weeks – easily qualifying Prop 37 for the ballot. And as of the first week of October, the Yes on 37 campaign enjoyed a 2 to 1 lead in the polls.

This broad statewide (and national) support – across party lines – made perfect sense. Prop 37 posits a simple question: Do we have the right to know what’s in the food we eat and feed our children, or is that a decision better left to the pesticide and junk food companies bankrolling the opposition campaign?

Prop 37 isn’t a referendum on genetically modified foods. It’s not a ban, or a warning, it’s a label.

The debate over the efficacy of genetically engineered foods should and will continue. In the meantime, Californians have a right to know, and for good reason.

A growing body of research links GMO foods to potential health risks, increased pesticide use, biodiversity loss, the emergence of super bugs  and  “super weeds” and the unintentional contamination of conventional crops.  

Prop 37 simply adds a line of ink to a label — as is currently required for 3,000 other ingredients — so consumers know which products have been altered in a laboratory. 61 other countries have provided their citizens with this right, and choice, it’s time we do the same.  

Corporate Backlash Against Our Right to Know

In response to this growing outcry for food transparency a who’s who of the world’s most notorious corporate bad actors, with long histories of deceiving the public, polluting the environment, and endangering public health, converged on California to convince us we don’t deserve this basic, human right. A right that nearly half the world’s population already enjoys.

The No on 37 campaigns two largest contributors are pesticide giants Monsanto ($8.1 million) and Dupont ($5.4 million) – who for decades assured us Agent Orange, DDT, and Tobacco were safe. At the same time, Monsanto has actively advocated for labeling in Europe

So how do companies like these go about persuading us that we don’t deserve the right to know what they’re doing to our food?

The Only Recourse: An Unprecedented Campaign of Deception

The campaign against the right to know has relied on three essential components: unlimited resources, a willingness to repeatedly lie, and a willingness to double and triple down on those lies-even when they are debunked by independent fact checkers.

Seriously, when was the last time giant, out-of-state pesticide and junk food companies spent $45 million to improve your health, protect the environment or save you money?

Spoiler Alert-they never have.    

The No On 37 campaign knows that the less you know about your food, the more money they are likely to make.  Their goal is literally that simple, even though their campaign of deception is far more elaborate.

They’ve set up phony AstroTurf groups, misrepresented spokespeople and embellished their credentials, and misrepresented leading science, government, professional and academic organizations-including (but not limited to) the National Academy of Sciences, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics,US Food and Drug Administrationand World Health Organization. They’ve bankrolled demonstrably phony “economic studies,” made repeated false statements in advertisements, deceived voters with mailers sent by obvious front groups, and repeated one falsehood after another—hoping somehow that no one would ever notice.

Well, someone just did. We filed a complaint to the Department of Justice about the potentially fraudulent use of the FDA seal in No on 37 campaign propaganda, and the DOJ has referred the matter to FDA to look into.

The No on 37 Campaign and the “Post Truth Era”

After four weeks of million dollar a day advertising by out of state pesticide and junk food corporations, No on 37 shrunk a 40 point deficit into a lead.  Not because they were right on the facts-because they don’t care about the facts.  

No on 37’s red herring arguments around common sense exemptions, phony lawsuit scares, bogus “big bureaucracy claims”, and “cost increase hysteria”, has been painstakingly documented.

Ultimately, we believe that “No on 37’s” financially motivated corporate “sting operation” constitutes a profound disdain for the democratic process and the citizens of this state.

Why Spend $45 Million To Prevent A Simple Label?

Just follow the money: If we know what’s in our food, and what’s being done to our food, many of us will seek alternatives, and that would reduce the profit margins of companies like Monsanto and DuPont.

Their fears are well founded: since Europe instituted labeling 15 years ago, only 7 percent of its food now contains genetically engineered ingredients – compared to approximately 70% in the United States. Imagine what that would mean to these corporations if a similar shift in purchasing habits took place in California?

Multi-billion dollar pesticide and junk food companies believe there is no greater threat than an informed consumer – and with transparency comes accountability.

Prop 37 threatens their monopoly of our food system – which prevents small farmers, the organics industry, and truly natural food producers from competing on an equal playing field.

Whose Side Are You On?

On Tuesday more than a label is on the ballot. Democracy itself is. Will voters allow out of state, multinational pesticide and junk food corporations tell us what we can and can’t know about the food we eat, and what they’re doing to that food? Are we going to allow television ads based on one demonstrable lie after another convince us that information is somehow a radical concept that we don’t deserve?

This right to know movement began with a farmer, a grandmother, and former midwife, organizing women across the state two years ago toward a 2012 ballot drive.  

Prop. 37 is about one and only one thing– our right to know what’s in our food, and make an informed choice about what we eat and feed our children.  

We can’t allow our democracy to be hijacked by unscrupulous corporate interests willing to say and spend anything to protect their profits at the expense of real people, and our rights as free citizens.

We must ask every voter that will take the time to listen a few simple questions:

Who do you trust with the health of your family: Pesticide and junk food companies and the $45 million they’ve spent lying to you, or Prop 37 supporters like the California Nurses Association, the Breast Cancer Action Fund, the California Council of Churches, and the American Public Health Association?

Who do you trust when it comes to protecting our natural environment and food supply: Monsanto and DuPont, or Prop 37 supporters like the Sierra Club, California League of Conservation Voters, and the Natural Resources Defense Council?

• And finally, who do you trust to make decisions about what you know about the food you eat, pesticide and junk food companies or Prop 37 supporters like the Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, and Public Citizen?

Prop 37 is not just about our health and our environment, and the future of our food supply. It’s also about the health of our democracy, and whether something so simple, so popular, and so “people driven” can be stomped out by giant out of state corporations polluting our state with $45 million of lies to protect their profits, at our expense.

Say yes to democracy. Say yes to your right to know. Vote Yes on Prop 37. And please tell everyone you know to do the same.

Check out our website, or help us get our television ad run a few more times by Contributing here, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Truth vs. $17 million in Prop 33 Lies

Prop 33 Paid

The insurance billionaire backing Proposition 33 is worried. He dropped another $500,000 into the campaign on Wednesday as Prop 33 slips in the polls (Down over 16% in the only public poll on 33.) But it’s not over – the money from Mercury Insurance chairman George Joseph means a last-minute cash infusion (he’s given $17 million total) to pay for his campaign’s lies, including new deceptive advertisements that feature testimonials by “supporters” who had financial ties to Mercury Insurance and its chairman George Joseph.

Joseph is using dirty tricks to deceive voters because the polls show the more the public learns about Prop 33 the less they like it. Two years ago, Californians voted against this insurance company’s false promises of discounts. Voters are smart enough to see through the same insurance company’s phony paid spokespeople too.

The truth can beat $17 million in insurance industry lies.

We will win if you share the facts about Prop 33 with your friends and family.

Among the latest deceptive advertising tricks featuring paid “supporters” by the Prop 33 campaign:

  • A half-page ad that ran in the Los Angeles Times on Thursday features State Senator Juan Vargas stating support for Prop 33, yet fails to disclose the $69,100 in campaign contributions that Vargas has received from Joseph and Mercury Insurance. Vargas himself is a former insurance industry executive.

    See the ad here

  • New Yes on Prop 33 banner ads on news websites feature the face of a voter who is actually an employee of Marketplace Communications, which has been paid over $750,000 so far to run the campaign.  Other employees of Marketplace Communications posing as real drivers were featured in paid television advertising without disclosing their identities.
  • Slate mailers going to households all across California this weekend feature a Yes on 33 endorsement from the Peace Officers Research Association of California, which received at least $75,000 for the endorsement. The campaign reports paying the US Postal Service $877,0000, suggesting it may have also paid to mail out the literature for PORAC and other paid slate mailers.

The only public poll on Prop 33, from Pepperdine University and the California Business Roundtable, reported this week that Prop 33 has fallen to 48.8% support, from 54% two weeks ago, and 60% prior to that.

Proposition 33 would allow insurance companies to raise auto insurance rates on good drivers who stop driving for almost any reason, even if they didn’t have a car.

Other campaign “supporters” that have been paid directly by Mercury, Joseph and the Prop 33 campaign include:

  • Roy M. Perez, the Immediate Past Chair of the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, owns RMP Strategies which has been paid $30,000 as a consultant by the Yes on 33 campaign. Former Senator Perata received at least $43,100 in campaign contributions from Mercury and Joseph, and was paid consulting fees from a nonprofit paid $75,000 by Mercury. The CA Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, PORAC, Senators Vargas and Perata were all featured in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times ad.
  • The Greenlining Institute opposed a measure nearly identical to Prop 33 in 2010, but reversed its position after a $25,000 contribution received from Mercury this spring, which was followed by another $195,000 contribution in September. Greenlining is also featured in the Los Angeles Times ad.
  • Last month, Prop 33 TV ads were caught falsely representing two women – Brandi King and Adriana Calderon – as regular drivers without disclosing that they work for the PR firm, Marketplace Communications, that has been paid over $750,000 to run the campaign.  Currently, Marketplace employee Eric Goto is featured in banner web site advertising posing as a disinterested voter voting on Prop 33.

Congressman John Garamendi, California’s first elected insurance commissioner and former Lt. Governor, today announced his opposition to Proposition 33. He joins every major consumer group in California, including Consumers Union, the nonprofit publishers of Consumer Reports, Consumer Federation of California, Consumer Action and Consumer Watchdog who oppose Proposition 33 because it would unfairly raise rates on new drivers, and Californians who stop driving for good reasons, even if they have perfect driving records.

The coalition of organizations opposing Prop 33 represents seniors, civil rights, workers, women and faith-based organizations including: California Nurses Association, California Council of Churches IMPACT, California NOW, California Labor Federation, MALDEF, Equal Justice Society, California Alliance for Retired Americans and many more.

Click here to find the extensive list of No on Prop 33coalition members.

For more information on why to vote No on Prop 33 visit:

Jim Crow Insurance: CA Prop 33 Turns Back The Clock To Price Discrimination In Auto Insurance


Revelations of discrimination by insurance companies are always shocking, but when they come out just days before a vote on an industry-sponsored ballot measure that would legalize unfair price increases and prejudice in auto insurance, Californians should pay particular attention.

A former insurance agent from the Auto Club of Southern California just blew the whistle on a scheme at the company that led to discrimination. The allegations come just as California voters take up Prop 33, a ballot measure financed with $16 million by one insurance executive, Mercury Insurance chairman George Joseph, that will allow auto insurance companies to surcharge motorists just because they didn’t buy insurance in the past, even if they didn’t own a car.

A new poll from the California Business Roundtable, whose numbers consistently tilt in favor of big business that funds it, shows voters have turned against Prop 33, with support dropping to 48% as the public learns about the proposal and the billionaire insurance executive who is behind it.

The Auto Club of Southern California insurance agent Jill Rogers exposed how the insurance company financially penalized agents for writing policies for new drivers and those without prior insurance, including those who did not drive previously. She said agents hung up on customers who did not have prior insurance and quoted them the most expensive policies, because the agents would only receive a $20 commission on those policies. For those who had continuous coverage, the Auto Club would pay its agents $100 to $500.

Call it Jim Crow Insurance. It’s illegal to charge more to new drivers and those with lapses in coverage in California, so insurance companies find other ways to keep them off the roll.

Clearly auto insurance companies don’t like to insure new drivers and those who had a lapse in their coverage, even though they are prevented by law from charging them more. Prop 33 would open the door to outright price discrimination.

As husband of an African American woman, I have seen racial discrimination first hand, including misplaced reservations, overcharges and other indignities endured by my wife and family on a fairly regular basis. Jill Rogers’ description of how insurance companies financially pressure agents, who in turn drop phone calls and misquote certain types of drivers, rings a bell. And this occurs in a system where it is already illegal to charge more to people who did not drive previously because they could not afford insurance.

How much worse will it be if Prop 33 made such price discrimination legal for all insurance companies?

We know from history. Shortly after California imposed tough mandatory insurance laws in the 1980s, a group of inner city residents sued because they were being forced by the state to buy auto insurance but could not afford it: Insurance companies were charging them thousands of dollars per year for auto insurance because of the ZIP-code they lived in and the fact that they did not have insurance previously.

Auto insurance companies, including George Joseph’s Mercury Insurance, the backer of the current Prop 33 proposal, essentially drew a “redline” around their communities and used these two pricing factors to keep African Americans and Latinos out of the auto insurance market.

Justice Allen Broussard of the California Supreme Court wrote: “This case arises from the attempt of the California Legislature to solve a serious social problem – the uninsured driver – without taking into account an equally serious problem – insurance pricing practices which make automobile liability insurance prohibitively expensive for many of the urban poor.”

Broussard, the second African American justice to serve on the California Supreme Court, noted that the plaintiffs “speak also of the reluctance of insurance companies to insure persons who were previously uninsured, a problem of particular concern since the purpose of the 1984 legislation was to compel such persons to obtain insurance.”

In its decision in the seminal King v Meese case, the California Supreme Court said it sympathized with the plaintiffs but told them to turn to the legislature, which then refused to act. Voters took matters into their own hands in 1988 with Prop 103 and banned the power of insurance companies to charge new drivers and those without previous insurance more for auto insurance.

Now, 24 years later, Prop 33 would reverse the ban and allow companies to again charge new drivers and those without insurance more for auto insurance.

Anyone who doubts that Prop 33 is about giving insurance companies the power to discriminate just needs to listen to Jill Rogers.

Joseph, who has tried to overturn this and others prohibitions on discrimination in the courts and legislature for two decades, before losing a nearly identical ballot measure to Prop 33 just two years, finally admitted to the LA Times recently that he would use Prop 33 to charge more to new people in the market. Afterall, when was the last time an insurance company billionaire spent $16 million on a ballot measure to save you money?

And if you doubt that such price discrimination would fall hardest on people of color, consider that the unemployment rates among whites is 7.5% and among blacks 14.1% percent and Latinos 10.2%. People of color are going to be the most likely to have to stop driving for economic reasons, and Prop 33 will slam them with 40% premium increases when they come back in the insurance market. That’s exactly how much Mercury Insurance charged those who didn’t drive previously when the sponsor of Prop 33 and his company were caught illegally surcharging them in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Prop 33 hurts all of us by putting more uninsured motorists on the road, and raising our uninsured motorists premiums, but it’s attempt to punish communities of color is outrageous.

Prop 33 is a deceptive initiative designed to bring us back to the day when insurance companies could price certain types of people out of the insurance market. That’s why consumer groups, civil rights groups like MALDEF and Equal Justice Society, as well every major newspaper editorial board in the state oppose it.

Recently civil rights leader Dolores Huerta spoke out against Prop 33. “We should be wary when a billionaire funds a self-enrichment ballot scheme,” said Huerta. “We will all pay if insurance discrimination against the poor and communities of color is brought back. Please join me in voting NO on Prop 33.”

Judging by the most recent poll, and thanks to whistleblowers like Jill Rogers, Californians seem to be agreeing with Huerta.


Originally posted on 11/1/2012 on the Huffington Post. Posted by Jamie Court, author of The Progressive’s Guide to Raising Hell and President of Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing an effective voice for taxpayers and consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Visit us on Facebook and Twitter.

Stop Billionaires From Buying the Vote


We have just one week to beat the insurance billionaires trying to buy this election.

We plastered these posters around the streets of San Francisco and Los Angeles to expose these deceptive billionaire propositions. Can you help us make sure more voters know?

Please post our new posters on Facebook today. Don’t use Facebook? Share the posters directly from our website here.

Our grassroots campaign against Prop 33 has just a few hundred thousand dollars to compete with the $16.4 million spent by insurance billionaire George Joseph, chairman of Mercury Insurance.

PhotobucketAnd last week, Charlie Munger Jr., the heir to the Berkshire Hathaway fortune including GEICO Insurance, sank another $13 million – for a total $35 million – into the campaign for Prop 32.

Prop 32 will take away workers’ voices in Sacramento but preserve the power of big corporations and wealthy individuals – like Munger and Joseph – to spend unlimited amounts in elections. Prop 33 will deregulate auto insurance and allow insurance companies to raise rates on good drivers just because they decide to stop driving for awhile.

We’ve got just 7 days left to expose these billionaires and stop them from buying the election.

Please share our posters on Facebook, or find the posters on our website and email your friends.

Your voice can beat the money spent by these insurance billionaires, but only if you help us spread the word. Tell your friends to vote No on Props 32 and 33 today!

Prop 37 and the Future of Food: New Poll, New Ad, and the Message Every Voter Needs to Hear

In a heated political battle over a topic that matters to everyone – our food system – is it possible for a grassroots movement for transparency to survive a $40 million hailstorm of lies from the world’s largest pesticide companies?

Just over one week to go until California decides whether to join 61 other countries in requiring labeling for genetically engineered foods, and the pesticide and junk food corporations are in overdrive trying to convince voters that a simple label will cause the sky to fall.

Opponents of Proposition 37, the California Right to Know genetically engineered food labeling act, are pulling every dirty trick in the book – from inventing a false title for their top science spokesman (who happens to be an anti-science radical), to misrepresenting the entire profession of nutritionists, to making up newspaper endorsements and even fabricating quotes from the U.S. government.

The opposition ads, which are saturating California airwaves at the rate of about $1 million dollars a day, have been called “mostly untrue” and “misleading”  by newspaper fact checkers.

Yet they are having an effect. After months of 67% support in the polls, support dropped to the mid 40s after just three weeks of deceptive television advertising. The most recent poll by Los Angeles Times shows Prop 37 still ahead, though barely – 44% to 42% — as we head into the final stretch.

This is actually good news. Despite their full-court press of deception, the opposition has been unable to pull ahead. The recent infusion of $5 million from the junk food companies to the No on 37 Campaign, and a new $1.5 million donation by Monsanto, make one thing clear: They’re worried.

They know the people’s movement can win this.

Rallying to the cause for the people’s right to know are celebrities like Bill Maher and Danny DeVito, famous chefs led by Alice Waters, faith and religious leaders, the CEOs of leading food companies and more than 3,000 endorsing organizations.  

Prop 37 has one of the most successful web ad campaigns ever, amazing videos arrive daily from supporters around the world (check out these kids), filmmaker Deborah Koons Garcia just announced she  is offering free viewings of her movie The Future of Food from now until the election, and renowned environmental activist Vendana Shiva is heading to California.

And with just over a week left, the Yes on 37 Campaign is finally on the airwaves with a TV ad that goes straight to the heart of the matter.

Ending How We Began: A Message for Everyone Who Cares About Our Food

On Friday, after three dark weeks of unanswered opposition ads, the Yes on 37 Campaign announced a seven-figure television ad buy to promote its message to California voters.  

But how is it possible to answer a blizzard of lies with just one 30-second television spot? In what is bound to be a controversial decision, the Yes on 37 Campaign is going with a simple, values-based, positive message.

“Because food is love. Food is life. Food is family. We all have the right to know what’s in our food,”   says the female narrator in the new “Food is Love” Yes on 37 ad now running in major broadcast markets across the Golden State – see the Food is Love ad here

In polling and focus-group tests, the positive ad outperformed more critical approaches by orders of magnitude, a fact that surprised some campaign veterans. The results could be an indication that voters are fed up with negative political ads.  

More importantly, the Food is Love ad reflects the true roots of the GMO labeling movement in California. Prop 37 was the inspiration of Pamm Larry, a grandmother, former midwife and farmer from Chico, California, who began organizing women across the state two years ago toward a 2012 ballot drive.  

The hugely successful effort – which gathered almost a million signatures in just 10 weeks — was largely due to the volunteer army that Pamm helped organize – many of them moms who just want to know what’s in their food.  As Yes Magazine reported, Prop 37 is a story about Soccer Moms facing off against Monsanto.

It’s all very simple. Food is a sacred part of our lives. We absolutely have the right to know if our food comes from nature, or if it was engineered in a lab by companies like Monsanto and Dow to contain foreign genes that have never before existed in the food supply.

So we are finishing this campaign with the same positive message that we began it with:  We have a right to know what’s in the food we eat and feed our families. No one has the right to make that choice for us.

Especially not the pesticide and junk food corporations: Since when have these notorious anti-consumer special interests ever spent $40 million because they want to save us money?

We invite you to join us in aiming our slingshot at Goliath. As Michael Pollan wrote in the New York Times, now is the moment when we find out if we have a food movement in this country.  

An Open Letter to The Insurance Billionaires Behind Props 32 & 33

No On 32 and 33

In an open letter today, the California Nurses Association and Consumer Watchdog challenged the billionaire financiers of Propositions 32 and 33 to a public, televised debate.

Will Charles Munger Jr. and George Joseph defend the measures attacking working people that they’ve spent $39 million promoting? Or will they continue to hide in the shadows behind their PR flacks and deceptive TV advertising?


October 24, 2012

Mr. Charles Munger Jr. and Mr. George Joseph:

Gentlemen, the California Nurses Association and Consumer Watchdog invite you, the primary financial sponsors of Propositions 32 and 33, to join us for a public debate on the merits and adverse consequences of these measures and the impact they will have on all Californians.

We call for a debate that would be hosted by a journalist of mutual agreement in a televised forum at your earliest convenience.

There’s more…

To date, Californians have heard a great deal about the reputed benefits of Propositions 32 and 33, but only from one-­‐sided political ads that hardly provide a fair or complete picture.

As the biggest financial contributors to these initiatives, for which you have already contributed a combined $39 million, your silence on these measures, which will have far-­‐reaching effects on all Californians, does a great disservice to the public.

If the initiatives you have so lavishly financed really will achieve the promises you claim in your advertisements, you should welcome the opportunity to stand up in public and defend them. We call on you to do so now.

As you no doubt know, our organizations sharply disagree with both the content of these initiatives, and the misleading way in which you have promoted them.

Proposition 32 is a misleading measure which claims to be legitimate campaign finance reform, but has been exposed as anything but that by virtually every newspaper in California. It would exempt corporate interests, shadowy super PACS, and the super wealthy like both of you while silencing the voices of nurses, consumer advocates, and others who would challenge your views.

Proposition 33 reverses a 24-­‐year-­‐old consumer protection that prohibits auto insurance companies from charging drivers more for car insurance just because they didn’t drive previously or otherwise had a break in coverage. Opposed by Consumers Union, Consumer Watchdog and nearly every newspaper editorial board in California, Proposition 33 allows insurance companies to penalize good drivers who did nothing wrong other than not drive and not buy insurance. Nonetheless television advertising running statewide falsely claims Proposition 33 “rewards responsible consumers.”

We know that more and more Californians are appalled at the specter of billionaires and multi-­‐millionaires corrupting our political process and would like to hear answers from those spending so much in this campaign. First and foremost, they would ask: Are the $22.9 million and $16.4 million checks you have written for Propositions 32 and 33, respectively, aimed at anything more than buying the vote for personal and political gain?

It’s time for you to step out of the shadows. The voters deserve to see and hear from the people responsible for Props 32 and 33, rather than the same old sound bites from the deceptive advertising your millions pay for.

Voters need to look you in the eye to gauge your sincerity, and judge your motives. The voters being bombarded with your advertising spin now deserve no less.

We look forward to hearing from you.


DeAnn McEwen, RN

Co-­‐president, California Nurses Association

Jamie Court

President, Consumer Watchdog

Top Ten Reasons California Newspapers Say We Should Vote No on Prop 33

Prop 33 Is A Measure Backed by One Insurance Billionaire To Raise Rates On Good Drivers

Consumer Watchdog Campaign today compiled ten of the most compelling reasons Californians should vote NO on Proposition 33, as reported by newspapers and editorial boards across the state.

“Consumer and public interest groups are being outspent 50 to 1 by an insurance billionaire who has thrown $16 million into Prop 33 in order to cherry pick customers and raise rates on good drivers in California,” said Carmen Balber of the No on Prop 33 Campaign. “Voters should look to trusted sources to sort through the truth about how Prop 33 will hurt consumers.”

Top ten reasons Californians should vote NO on Prop 33:

1.   Prop 33 will raise rates on new drivers.

George Joseph, the insurance billionaire behind Prop 33, acknowledged to the Los Angeles Times “on Sunday that Prop 33 will raise rates on new drivers. As columnist Mike Hiltzik reported: “He made no bones about the fact that the ‘proper rate’ for customers coming to Mercury as newly insured policyholders is much higher than what he can charge them now.”

2.   Prop 33 will allow insurers to cherry pick their preferred customers and raise rates on everyone else.

Riverside Press-Enterprise editorial: “The idea that the head of an insurance company would spend millions of dollars to save drivers money defies all credibility. No, a different and self-interested agenda drives this measure: poaching lucrative customers from rivals while encouraging less desirable customers to go elsewhere. Californians have no reason to reward that kind of special-interest scheme, and voters should reject Prop. 33.”

3.   California voters said NO to an almost identical measure at the ballot two years ago.

San Jose Mercury-News editorial: “Two years ago billionaire George Joseph, chairman of Mercury Insurance, spent $16 million of the company’s money on Proposition 17, a direct attack on California’s strong insurance rights laws. Like an irritating mosquito, Joseph and his millions are back again this year with Proposition 33, essentially a new version of the law voters rejected two years ago.”

4.  Prop 33 will raise the number of uninsured drivers in California.

Riverside Press-Enterprise editorial: “That approach would make insurance more expensive for drivers who do not have it now – which would undermine the public interest. State policy should encourage all drivers to buy insurance, to avoid the extra costs everyone else pays in collisions with the uninsured. Instead, Prop. 33 would throw new financial obstacles in the path of those who lack insurance.”

5.   Prop 33 will overturn a 24-year-old consumer and civil rights protection.

North County Times editorial: “Put on the ballot by insurers, Prop. 33 seeks to lift a voter-approved prohibition (Prop. 103 in 1988) on charging automobile insurance customers a higher rate if they were not previously insured. We see no reason to change the current ban on charging higher rates to the previously uninsured. A person’s likelihood of causing a vehicle collision tomorrow would not seem to hinge on whether they had insurance last week or not.”

6.   Prop 33 will raise rates on good drivers who drop their insurance coverage for almost any reason.

Sacramento Bee editorial: “The downside remains clear as the attorney general’s office notes in the official summary: Proposition 33 ‘will allow insurance companies to increase cost of insurance to drivers who have not maintained continuous coverage.’ That would mean higher costs for graduating students buying coverage, anyone newly obtaining an auto, city dwellers who haven’t owned a car but now live in an area without mass transit, anyone who decided not to drive for more than three months to save money.”

7.   Prop 33 unfairly punishes responsible drivers who stop driving for good reasons and then need to get back on the road.

Daily News editorial: “There is no good reason such people should be punished for their non-driving period. Once they need or are able to drive again, the law says they have to buy insurance. When they comply with that law, they should not be hit with a surcharge that could last five years.”

8.   Prop 33 will raise rates on drivers with perfect driving records.

Bakersfield Californian editorial: “But Prop. 33 could still raise rates for drivers, even those with perfect driving records. In states with Prop. 33-like rules, drivers who buy insurance following a long lapse in coverage paid more: 61 percent more in Texas, 79 percent more in Nevada and 103 percent more in Florida.”

9.   Prop 33 is funded by one insurance billionaire to benefit his own company at the expense of consumers.

Daily News editorial: “The electorate didn’t buy the pitch then that Mercury Insurance’s chairman was spending $16 million to pass a measure just because he wanted consumers to save money on auto insurance. And voters shouldn’t buy it now that Mercury’s billionaire boss George Joseph is back — spending more than $8 million so far in support of of this self-serving measure.”

10. Prop 33 is backed by an insurance company with a record of abusing its customers and violating the law.

Santa Cruz Sentinel editorial: “According to the California Department of Insurance, Mercury Insurance overcharged and discriminated against California customers for 15 years. The company’s founder, Joseph, has a track record of giving money to state politicians to get state law changed to benefit Mercury, and when that failed, abusing the state initiative process with his self-serving propositions.”