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CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS INSURANCE COMMISSIONER : Doubts Raised About Claims in Collis Ads

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Advertising by Conway Collis, a Democratic candidate for insurance commissioner, stirred new controversy Sunday as information surfaced that cast doubt on a central thrust of two Collis television ads--that he scored highest on a questionnaire of commissioner candidates issued by consumer advocate Ralph Nader.

Steven Miller, chairman of the 1988 insurance initiative campaign for Proposition 100, said that Collis had endorsed that measure as well as Proposition 103 in 1988.

If that is true, then one of Collis’ answers to the Nader questionnaire would have been wrong, and he should actually have tied for highest rating by Nader with another commissioner candidate, Democrat Ray Bourhis.

The only question that Collis answered differently than Bourhis was Question 27: “In November, 1988, there were five insurance initiatives on the ballot. . . . Once all five had qualified for the ballot, did you unequivocally and exclusively support Proposition 103?” Collis answered this question “yes” and Bourhis “no.”

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Based on that reply, Nader said Collis outscored Bourhis, 68 “correct” answers to 67. It was the only answer on which the two differed.

Miller, however, said Sunday that Collis had endorsed Proposition 100 in addition to 103 and never rescinded that endorsement so far as he knew.

Collis responded: “Before 103 qualified, I said to Steve Miller that if 103 did not qualify for the ballot, I would support 100. Once 103 qualified for the ballot, I made it clear that I did not want to be associated with 100.”

However, Collis said he had stated he did not want to be associated with the measure after an event which, according to available records, took place more than three months after both Propositions 100 and 103 qualified.

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Miller said Collis had initially told him he was endorsing Proposition 100, backed by the state’s trial lawyers, after Labor Day, 1988, again long after both 100 and 103 had qualified.

Meanwhile, in another development relating to the Nader questionnaire, a San Diego law professor, Robert Fellmeth, a supporter of Democrat Walter Zelman in the commissioner’s race, said he had drafted 30 of the 72 questions Nader used. And Harvey Rosenfield, author of Proposition 103 and a sponsor of Collis’ candidacy, acknowledged that he had also had “input” into Nader’s questionnaire.

Although Rosenfield said he had not drafted any questions, his and Fellmeth’s statements raise questions about how much of the questionnaire was actually Nader’s work.

Nader was not available for comment Sunday.

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In another development, Michael Ganley, campaign manager for another Collis rival in the Democratic primary, Bill Press, in a letter to television station managers throughout the state called on them “in the interest of fairness and truth in advertising, and as a public service,” to refuse to run a Collis commercial that attacks Press and yet another candidate, state Sen. John Garamendi (D-Walnut Grove), as belonging to special interests.

Ganley said that the ad “contains several serious factual errors.”

One contested statement in the ad, that trial lawyers paid for attacks against Proposition 103, was defended Sunday by Joanne Doroshow, a lawyer formerly with Nader, who said a fact sheet prepared by the Proposition 100 campaign criticized Proposition 103.

Proposition 100 chairman Miller confirmed that such a fact sheet had been prepared but said it cost only a few dollars and that there had been no paid media advertising by the lawyers against Proposition 103.

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