Saturday, October 14, 2006

Political Demonizing Bites the Oregonian

The Oregonian supports passage of Measure 42 prohibiting the use of credit scores as a basis of setting insurance rates. But it can't conjure up even a single word of praise for the Measure's chief sponsor (Bill Sizemore) and chief funder (Loren Parks). Actually Parks doesn't even rate a mention.

The best the big O can do is call Sizemore a "controversial activist".

Insurers have poured almost $4 million into the campaign to defeat Measure 42, which would forbid them from using a customer's credit score to set rates. They cite many reasons for opposing the measure, but their favorite two words seem to be "Bill Sizemore," the controversial activist who wrote the initiative.

Though the editorial notes that Sizemore has few public allies in the campaign, there's not a word about his good sense, courage or hard work on Measure 42. Instead a minor player who seems to have had no part in getting the measure on the ballot, the Consumers Union, gets the credit for raising "legitimate questions" and doing "meticulous research".

In the lonely campaign in favor of 42, Sizemore is joined by the Consumers Union, which raises legitimate questions about the accuracy, lack of transparency and apparent unfairness of using credit scores as a tool to set insurance prices. The nonprofit organization's meticulous research points to a troubling problem with credit scores: They appear to disproportionately penalize ethnic minorities and underprivileged people.

The Consumers Union may be an ally, but there is nothing from them in the Voters’ Pamphlet or in any high profile campaign. Have they even contributed any money?

Actually the only other public ally filing in the Voters’ Pamphlet is, eek!, Loren Parks.

Can any good thing come from Bill Sizemore and Loren Parks? Actually, yes. But, the demonizing of political opponents has a real impact.

The Oregon Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, in their bid to bring Sizemore down, may be responsible for bringing Measure 42 down. In fact, if they had their way, the Measure wouldn’t even be on the ballot because Sizemore shouldn’t have the right to participate in the initiative process. Loren Parks is also on their “bad guy” list.

In 2002, an Oregon jury found Bill Sizemore guilty of racketeering related to petition fraud. His current Measure 41 Tax Scam campaign is managed by the Oregon chapter of FreedomWorks, and almost entirely funded by Loren Parks. FreedomWorks is a national special interest group funded by oil companies and Big Tobacco. Loren Parks is a Nevada businessman and professed hypnotist. It’s hard to see how this trio of Sizemore, FreedomWorks, and Loren Parks has the best interests of Oregon at heart.

The Oregonian also has its share in this. That's why its editors can't bring themselves to praise the two people most responsible for a ballot measure they support.

It’s time to stop demonizing people and just agree or disagree with ideas and specific issues. The Measure 42 campaign is a case in point about how poisoning the atmosphere of political discourse victimizes good ideas.

Measure 42 is similar to legislation passed in Oregon in 2003 for existing policy holders, who are the vast majority of policy holders. Did your insurance rates rocket through the ceiling? Mine didn’t.

Will adding new policy holders or those who change insurance companies to the mass of policy holders already shielded cause any significant change in rates? Not likely.

I agree with “lonely” Bill Sizemore, Loren Parks and the Oregonian. Vote yes on Measure 42.

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