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Consumer advocates today called on the insurance company executive behind Proposition 33 to immediately withdraw new radio advertisements that mischaracterize the impact of the initiative on foreign service and military personnel in the wake of attacks on US embassies abroad.

In statewide radio advertisements paid for by Mercury insurance executive George Joseph, the Proposition 33 campaign erroneously claims soldiers will be able to keep auto insurance discounts they now lose, and that Prop 33 is about “supporting our heroes.” In fact, foreign service officers would be surcharged under the proposal for not driving while working oversees when they restart their auto insurance in California. Moreover, Prop 33 will not protect any current discount for soldiers.

In a letter sent to Mercury Chairman Joseph today, Consumer Watchdog wrote: “Out of respect for military officers and foreign service employees, who face life-threatening circumstances at our embassies abroad, we call upon you to immediately withdraw your deceptive and disrespectful radio advertising campaign in favor of Proposition 33.”

Download Consumer Watchdog’s letter here, or read text below

Listen to the Prop 33 radio ad here

A Los Angeles Times opinion staff blog published yesterday took the campaign to task for the deceptive ad: “The 30-second spot declares: ‘Proposition 33 protects our veterans and military families, and allows them to keep their discount on car insurance, saving them money.’ It would do nothing of the kind.”

Read the Times blog here:

Consumer Watchdog’s letter continued: “Your radio advertisement claims Prop 33 is about “supporting our heroes.” But under Prop 33, good drivers who have stopped driving for legitimate reasons – like serving abroad in our foreign service – would be hit with large surcharges if they decided to drive again and buy insurance in California. For political reasons, you exempted from Prop 33’s large rate increases a small segment of those who stop driving for legitimate reasons, active duty military officers. That certainly does not mean you are helping soldiers keep a discount. Moreover, foreign service officers, families of military officers, disabled veterans and others who stop driving for good reason, but cannot prove active duty military service is the reason for their coverage lapse, would get slammed under Prop 33 with big rate hikes.”

This month, Joseph also gave $195,000 to a nonprofit organization for its support of Proposition 33 in another attempt to mislead voters about the impact of Prop 33 and camouflage its insurance industry backing. Joseph gave 99%, $8.4 million, of the funds in support of Prop 33.

The measure would overturn a 24-year-old law banning discriminatory practices by auto insurance companies that were brought to light in a 1987 California civil rights case, King v. Meese. Proposition 103, passed by the voters in 1988, banned auto insurers from charging more, or refusing to sell insurance, to people who were not previously insured.

Read more about Proposition 33 at www.StopProp33.org

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September 13, 2012

Mr. Joseph,

Out of respect for military officers and foreign service employees, who face life-threatening circumstances at our embassies abroad, we call upon you to immediately withdraw your deceptive and disrespectful radio advertising campaign in favor of Proposition 33.

You began your disingenuous “Heroes” radio advertising campaign for Proposition 33, the California ballot measure for which you have given 99% of the funding, the day after September 11th with the hope of fanning patriotic sentiments for your insurance company’s cause. You could not have known that those cynical advertisements – which misrepresent your measure’s impact on our nation’s military, their families and foreign service officers – would air when American military and foreign service members are under grave threat worldwide.

Nonetheless, you now have an obligation not to betray the seriousness of the current circumstances our heroes face abroad with radio advertisements that lie about what Prop 33 does in their name.

As the Los Angeles Times editorial staff blog noted Wednesday:

“Proposition 33, an initiative to let auto insurers offer discounts to competitors’ customers, isn’t quite the same as Proposition 17, a similar proposal that voters rejected in 2010. But the campaign in favor of the measure seems to be following the same truth-distorting playbook.

“The Yes on Proposition 33 campaign has bought airtime on 19 radio stations in five cities for what appears to be its first commercial, which is due to begin broadcasting Wednesday. The 30-second spot declares: ‘Proposition 33 protects our veterans and military families, and allows them to keep their discount on car insurance, saving them money.’

“It would do nothing of the kind.”

As you well know, Prop 33 has nothing to do with military officers keeping any discount under current law. All your initiative does is legalize a now-illegal rating factor: Whether a driver has had auto insurance continuously or not.

Your radio advertisement claims Prop 33 is about “supporting our heroes.” But under Prop 33, good drivers who have stopped driving for legitimate reasons – like serving abroad in our foreign service – would be hit with large surcharges if they decided to drive again and buy insurance in California. For political reasons, you exempted from Prop 33’s large rate increases a small segment of those who stop driving for legitimate reasons, active duty military officers. That certainly does not mean you are helping soldiers keep a discount. Moreover, foreign service officers, families of military officers, disabled veterans and others who stop driving for good reason, but cannot prove active duty military service is the reason for their coverage lapse, would get slammed under Prop 33 with big rate hikes.

Mr. Joseph, you have repeatedly cited your experience as a veteran to justify why one insurance company billionaire should be allowed to change the insurance laws through Proposition 33. We urge you to take a moment of silence to think like a veteran now and withdraw these advertisements.

Sincerely,
Jamie Court