Lawyers Give Heavily to Insurance Measure

Times Staff Writer

The political action committee of the California Trial Lawyers Assn., along with individual lawyers and law firms, gave almost three-quarters of the $2.5 million collected between Jan. 1 and July 1 for the lawyer-backed insurance initiative, according to contribution reports filed Monday.

The Trial Lawyers Assn. committee gave $833,218 and individual lawyers and law firms gave at least another $977,246.

Other supporters, including the California Bankers Assn., the state's chiropractors and a number of medical firms that treat auto accident victims gave hundreds of thousands of dollars more to the initiative campaign, the report said.

The campaign organization of Atty. Gen. John K. Van de Kamp, an ally of the trial lawyers whose aides helped draft the initiative, lent the campaign $50,000, and another $52,044 loan came from the Trial Lawyers Assn.

Although the initiative campaign committee carries the name of Consumer Insurance Reform Coalition, only a tiny percentage of the total contributions came from consumers or their groups.

In a coincidental development Monday, the California Fair Political Practices Commission said it may ask the initiative's coordinators to voluntarily begin listing the Trial Lawyers Assn. as a sponsor in their advertisements. If they should be asked and then refuse, hearings could be held to consider a formal order, the commission said.

The initiative calls for rate rollbacks of 20% for "good drivers," regulation by the state Insurance Department of substantial rate hikes and an end to the industry's antitrust exemptions.

Right to Intervene

It would also protect lawyers' fees, allow banks into the auto insurance business and if it gets more votes, preempt the insurers' proposed no-fault initiative that will also be on the November ballot. Another provision would give Van de Kamp's office the right to intervene on behalf of consumers in rate hearings.

The lawyer-backed initiative was the first of five insurance measures to qualify for the November ballot and thereby was the first required to file campaign contribution and spending reports with the secretary of state's office.

Other reports will follow and are also expected to show that special interests are financing most of what is expected to be the most expensive initiative battle in the state's history.

Insurance industry campaign coordinators said they will file their report July 21. Indications are it will show that so far, the insurers have raised perhaps four or five times more than their rivals, the trial lawyers.

Each of the groups is locked in a bitter struggle to put the burden on the other for financial sacrifices necessary to lower auto and some other insurance rates.

The report filed Monday showed that expenditures for the lawyer-backed initiative totaled, through July 1, $2.19 million, including $418,076 paid to the petition circulating firm of Kimball Petition Management, $287,217 to the campaign management firm of Woodward & McDowell and hundreds of thousands of dollars more for television and newspaper advertising.

Others Contributed

As for contributions, while the lawyers gave at least 72% of the money raised, there were other substantial donors.

The California Bankers Assn. gave $297,658 and lent the initiative another $5,658. Two major banks, First Interstate and Security Pacific, each gave $20,000 more.

The political action committee of the California chiropractors gave $43,357, and other medical practitioners gave $60,000 or more.

A Pasadena firm that markets legal services in the Latino community, Spanish Research and Marketing, gave $40,000.

As for the lawyers, more than a dozen firms or individual lawyers gave more than $10,000 to the initiative drive. Among these were Lancaster attorney Dennis Bogard, $20,000; the Beverly Hills law firm of Contarino, Hutchinson & Cherin, $20,000; the Sacramento law firm of Dreyer, Scalia, Babich & Buccola, $15,000, and the Long Beach law firm of Thielsen & Burke $20,000.

Ten-thousand dollar contributions came from the San Francisco law firm of Bianco, Brandi, Jones & Rudy; Los Angeles attorney William J. Gargaro; the Oakland law firm of Gwilliam & Ivary (which includes the president of the Trial Lawyers Assn., J. Gary Gwilliam), and Lancaster attorney Volodar S. Kuzyk.

Firms Named

Other $10,000 contributions were made by the San Francisco law firm of Lawless & Harvey; the Sacramento law firm of Moore, Crawford, Stefanki & Block; the Oakland law firm of Padway & Padway, and Los Angeles attorney Stephen J. Reiss.

A few lawyers and law firms that gave such large amounts listed no address, and others were not clearly identified as lawyers, although the Parker Directory of California Attorneys lists them.

Another group of contributors were those who benefit financially from the system of treating accident victims or take part in lawsuits for damages.

Among them were the National Medical Group Inc. of Long Beach, which gave $19,000; Encino Pain Control Center, $6,000; Hacienda Thermo Center, $10,000, and Serrins Chiropractic Corp. of Mission Viejo, $5,000.

Other groups, that benefit from substantial litigation in the insurance field, helped out. Nick Harris Detectives Inc. of Van Nuys, gave $2,000, Los Angeles General Shorthand Reporters Assn. donated $1,000 and the Hutchings Court Reporters of Los Angeles contributed $1,000.

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