Though vowing that he would not accept insurance industry money while running for insurance commissioner, Republican candidate for insurance commissioner Mike Villines has used more than $30,000 in insurance industry contributions on his campaign.
The money was pulled from older campaign contributions that Villines received in his 2008 run for state Assembly and from early contributions for a now-abandoned Senate run slated for 2014, the Villines campaign said.
In an interview with examiner.com, Villines said he thought accepting contributions from the insurance industry would present a conflict of interest:
I believe that it would not be appropriate to accept contributions from an industry that I would be directly responsible for regulating. Therefore, I have not accepted money from insurance companies or their employees during my campaign for insurance commissioner because I believe it is a conflict of interest to take contributions from the very industry I would regulate if I was elected to this office.
Villines’ campaign said the industry money used from older campaigns presents no conflict of interest.
“When running for the Assembly, Mr. Villines did not sit on the insurance committee or the health committee so there was no conflict of interest in the past,” said Jennifer Gibbons, Villines campaign spokeswoman. “Now that there is a conflict, he was been very clear about not soliciting or accepting contributions from the insurance industry.”
Gibbons said Villines campaign did not plan to return the contributions. Villines has collected more than $230,000 in contributions for his general election run this year.
The insurance industry was Villines' top contributor while running for Assembly in 2008, shelling out $158,845 to Villines' campaign. Villines also took $46,000 in insurance industry contributions in his 2006 Assembly run.
Villines, a termed-out Assemblyman, seemed poised to lose his primary race for insurance commissioner after trailing his opponent Brain FitzGerald by 11,000 votes with 100 percent of the precincts reporting. Now, with hundreds of thousands of mail-in and provisional ballots tallied, Villines leads more than 13,000 votes over FitzGerald.
Villines told the Sacramento Bee he was "feeling really good" about the likelihood that he would be declared the winner. The secretary of state will certify the results July 16.
Termed-out Assemblyman Dave Jones, who won the Democratic primary for insurance commissioner earlier this month, also accepted insurance industry money during past campaigns.
Jones has also vowed not to accept any insurance industry money while running for insurance commissioner. But as member of the Assembly health committee, Jones accepted $14,762 in his 2008 Assembly campaign, and $13,300 from the insurance industry in 2006 run.
Jones has subsequently transferred $8,550 from his older campaign accounts into his insurance committee campaign fund.