Why Lara Should Resign

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

The Ricardo Lara scandal is a good thing.

First, Lara’s acceptance of donations from people in the insurance industry exposes the problem of making insurance commissioners elected officials. That means they must raise money, and the people who give money to insurance commissioner candidates are people who want things from insurance commissioners. 

Second, it points to the unintended consequences of Prop 103, which make the insurance commissioner an elected official. Consumer Watchdog, the group behind that three-decade-old initiative, has been railing at Lara’s corruption, even though that group made it possible.

Perhaps, someday, an initiative or constitutional change will make insurance commissioners appointed officials again. 

In the meantime, the Lara scandal provides an opportunity to get an appointed insurance commissioner right now. Lara should resign. If he won’t, he should be pressured to resign—with political isolation being the main tool.

If he resigned, it’d be a very good thing for the state. A successor would be appointed—someone who doesn’t take money from the insurance industry. And it’s important for the state to have an uncompromised insurance commissioner right now, with so many changes in climate, disaster and development roiling the insurance markets.

A strong, appointed commissioner might even help make the case for turning the position into an appointed one.

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