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CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS: INSURANCE COMMISSIONER : No Special Interest Help to Pay Loans, 2 Candidates Say

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Two Democrats who have loaned their campaigns hundreds of thousands of dollars in their bid for insurance commissioner will not repay themselves after the election by raising money from special interests they may be regulating, according to statements made Saturday. State Board of Equalization chairman Conway Collis, who has loaned himself $673,000 while raising only $75,795 from outside contributors, said:

“If I lose this election, I am prepared to repay the loans out of my own funds. If I win, I am on record supporting an initiative that would limit attorneys’ fees and create a nonprofit system of auto insurance, so it is simply ridiculous to think that I will get any support from those same special interests.”

The initiative Collis referred to, however, failed to qualify for the ballot this year and would have to be recirculated for 1992 or a later ballot. Also, after his election to the Board of Equalization, Collis raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from interests subject to board action.

Meanwhile, the campaign manager for state Sen. John Garamendi, who loaned himself $700,000 while raising $417,372 from contributors, said Garamendi intends to repay himself later by soliciting “a variety of people who are interested in good government.”

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“The senator is not planning to take any money from insurance companies at any time after he becomes commissioner,” said Revels Cayton. “He does not believe that one should accept contributions from an industry that he is going to rigorously regulate.”

Despite such assurances, two leading rivals of Collis and Garamendi in the Democratic primary said Saturday they are convinced that one special interest or another will end up paying off Garamendi or Collis, if either is elected insurance commissioner.

Former Common Cause director Walter Zelman, who has raised $78,898 from contributors, $3,000 more than Collis, but who has $670,000 less to campaign with because he has not loaned himself any money, said:

“Special interests would be the only possible source to which Garamendi or Collis could turn in order to repay their $700,000 or $673,000 campaign debt, owed to themselves. That kind of money is just not available from any other source.”

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Zelman added that the way Garamendi or Collis could prove that they won’t be raising money from special interests after the election would be to turn their loans into direct campaign contributions. “Only if this is done can the public be guaranteed that Collis and Garamendi would not use their position of public trust for personal economic gain,” he said.

Bill Press--who raised $603,040 from contributors, more than Garamendi and Collis combined, but, because he did not loan himself any money, has less to campaign with than either--said:

“These two are waging this campaign like two typical cash register politicians. They’re the S and L candidates, Stealth and Loan. They refuse to release their tax returns, fund most of their campaign with personal loans and then refuse to reveal the true sources of the loans, and how they’ll be paid back.”

Collis said in his statement that the loan he had made to himself was made on the value of his Santa Monica home.

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But Press questioned that. “Lenders I have talked to say there is no way he could draw down $673,000 on a second mortgage on a million-dollar home,” he said.

Meanwhile, Garamendi said that he has abandoned advocacy of no-fault auto insurance and no longer accepts it as a solution for California. Garamendi had unsuccessfully authored no-fault legislation in the late 1970s, but in this campaign has come under fire for that position because no-fault is backed by the insurance industry.


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