La.’s Commissioner Donelon Files Suit to Stop Opponent’s Ads

September 27, 2006

Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon filed a lawsuit against his opponent in Saturday’s election, demanding an end to television commercials that claim Donelon trades insurance licenses for campaign contributions.

Donelon’s attorney filed the lawsuit Sept. 25. The commercials are airing in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

The case has been assigned to state District Judge Janice Clark. Named as defendants were Sen. James David Cain, R-Dry Creek, and Jamestown Associates, the company that placed the ads for Cain’s campaign.

Mike McKay, an attorney for Donelon, described the television spot as “libelous, defamatory and false.”

“It accuses someone, in effect, of a crime,” McKay said of the television ads. He said he hoped to have a hearing before Clark before the end of the week.

Charlie Davis, campaign manager for Cain, said the television ad is accurate and the lawsuit does nothing more than focus the public’s attention on Donelon’s history. “We have evidence to back up every claim in the ad,” Davis said. “This is a desperate act of a dying campaign.”

Donelon maintains there is no connection between his campaign contributions and the issuance of insurance licenses. Donelon’s lawsuit, which seeks an injunction to stop the airing of the ads, also says the ads are wrong when they claim Donelon has raised insurance rates 33 times.

McKay said the state’s Insurance Rating Commission approves rate increases and Donelon sits on the commission, but only votes to break a tie.

Davis countered that before a rate increase can be considered by the commission, it must be approved by Donelon’s staff. If the increase is less than 10 percent, it can be approved without going to the commission, Davis said.

Voters will select someone to serve out the final year of the term of former Insurance Commissioner Robert Wooley, who resigned in February to join a private law firm.

Donelon, a Metairie Republican, Cain and Libertarian S.B.A Saitoon, a Baton Rouge insurance broker, are the three candidates in the race.

Secretary of State Al Ater is predicting a “dismal” turnout for Saturday’s election – the first statewide election since Hurricane Katrina.

Ater said he expects between 25 and 30 percent of the state’s 2.9 million voters to cast ballots in an election where the jobs of state insurance commissioner and secretary of state are up for grabs.

As secretary of state, Ater is the state’s chief elections officer. He took over the post after incumbent Fox McKeithen died. Ater is not seeking election to the position.

Information from: The Advocate,

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