Ricardo Lara’s Corruption is Making Headlines Across California

Lying multiple times about taking insurance money. Overruling his own Department to benefit a shady insurance company that donated to him. Helping lobbyist friends make $2 million lobbying his department. Going to court to block transparency. Ricardo Lara’s pay-to-play scandal is one of the biggest political corruption stories in California in years.

Read the news:

With Scandals multiplying, will Ricardo Lara last a full term as insurance commissioner?

“He’s been caught red-handed taking sneaky donations from people connected to the insurance industry…evidence suggests he knew about the donations…Politico revealed that he’s been sticking California taxpayers with the bill for rent on his apartment in Sacramento…His office has repeatedly stonewalled on releasing public information…how are we supposed to believe a politician who has already lied multiple times?”

  • Campaign regulators open investigation into state insurance chief

    “[The Fair Political Practices Commission]…opened an investigation into Lara and four political committees over a series of transactions that a watchdog group says appear to show insurance industry donations were diverted to independent groups working to support his re-election…the LGBTQ Caucus Leadership Fund took in $122,500 from seven insurance companies between June 2021 and April 2022…The donations made in the current election cycle closely match the $125,000 that was transferred by the leadership fund to the political action committee and independent expenditure committees now subject to the state investigation.”

  • Facing public records suit, CA insurance chief drops plans to auto delete emails

    Last year, while California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara promoted his commitment to government transparency and defended a lawsuit accusing him of withholding public records, the agency he oversees adopted a plan to automatically delete most of its emails after 180 days… Open-government advocates said the idea of automatically destroying emails is antithetical to public service…”

  • Lobbyists told state insurance chief they represented company at center of campaign scandal, new filing says

    “lobbyists spoke personally with California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara and his senior deputy, contrary to what state officials have said in a public-records lawsuit… [lobbyist] Rusty Areias said he told Lara in 2019 that he had been hired by the workers’ compensation firm Applied Underwriters… At the time Applied Underwriters was seeking state approval from Lara’s office for a change in ownership… state insurance regulators typically are not supposed to take up the cause of companies they regulate…”

  • Lobbyist seeks $2M fee for work on behalf of insurer that donated to state’s insurance regulator

    Lara’s one-time boss and political mentor… Fabian Nunez…helped make sure San Francisco investor Steven Menzies did not forfeit a $50 million deposit he paid…to acquire full control of Applied…Just before Menzies was due to lose the…deposit, California regulators agreed not to oppose the sale plan…The newspaper also…disclosed a series of private meetings between Lara and Menzies…the Department of Insurance revealed that it was withholding approximately 400 internal emails and records of 21 meetings with Lara’s top political and legal advisers…”

  • Company at center of insurance commissioner’s contributions scandal sold without California approval

    “[Lara]… met privately with the insurance executive [Steven Menzies] multiple times and accepted more than $46,000 in campaign donations from people connected to his company… Berkshire Hathaway was entitled to keep a $50 million deposit Menzies paid if the proposed acquisition did not close by Sept. 30… after the release of Lara’s public calendars disclosed multiple meetings with Menzies and others, the commissioner announced that he was suspending fundraising for the rest of the year.”

  • With Scandals multiplying, will Ricardo Lara last a full term as insurance commissioner?

    “He’s been caught red-handed taking sneaky donations from people connected to the insurance industry…evidence suggests he knew about the donations…Politico revealed that he’s been sticking California taxpayers with the bill for rent on his apartment in Sacramento…His office has repeatedly stonewalled on releasing public information…how are we supposed to believe a politician who has already lied multiple times?”

  • Ricardo Lara’s deeply insufficient apology

    Ricardo Lara was caught taking campaign contributions from the industry he regulates… breaking with his predecessors’ refusal of such support for nearly two decades…. More recent reports detailed other donations linked to companies with actual or potential business before Lara. The Union-Tribune counted more than a quarter-million dollars with some connection to the department’s work…Lara’s mea culpa would be more convincing if it were accompanied by transparent and unflinching accountability for his past and future behavior.”

  • California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara must come clean on campaign scandal

    “Scandal-plagued state Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara is making headlines again for the past campaign contributions he’s taken from people and companies with ties to the department he’s overseen since being sworn in in January. A new analysis of his public campaign disclosures this week by The San Diego Union-Tribune showed he has collected at least $270,000 of such money, more than had been known.”

  • California insurance commissioner met with CEO who has cases pending before his department

    “Lara said he met with CEO Steven M. Menzies, who heads Applied Underwriters, a workers’ compensation agency that [Lara’s] department formerly settled with for ‘bait and switch’ marketing tactics… Berkshire Hathaway is in the process of selling the company, a sale Lara must approve. Lara called the May 6 meeting with Menzies ‘casual’…Lara and department officials intervened in multiple cases…overruling judicial decisions and ordering cases to be reopened, as well as issuing stay orders…”

  • California’s insurance commissioner faces ethics questions

    “The commissioner’s failure to distance his campaign from the industry has invited scrutiny…of every meeting or speech that might suggest a broader effort to ingratiate himself with the insurers he was elected to regulate… from his support for legislation facilitating pet insurance to his apparent willingness to help insurers make use of data on driver behavior….in an office whose importance is growing amid wildfire and other risks, the commissioner has engendered a remarkable degree of distrust.”

  • Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara proving to be his own worst enemy

    “It’s hard to remember a statewide officeholder in recent decades who got off to a worse start…Lara…refused to release his calendar for weeks.…Why leave the impression he is far too cozy with the companies he regulates? Lara only encouraged that perception in a speech to 200 top insurance industry attorneys last Thursday when…Lara said he would ‘start engaging the industry like never before.’”

  • Californians deserve better than Ricardo Lara is giving them

    “Lara’s reelection campaign received $46,500 in donations from Applied executives and their spouses in a single day. In early June, Lara granted the company’s request to reconsider the decisions, and in July, his office amended the decisions in a way…which is financially beneficial to Applied…"

  • State Insurance Commissioner Defends Intervening in Cases Involving Donors

    “Lara's interventions included trying to overrule decisions by an administrative law judge in his own department in cases related to workers' compensation provider Applied Underwriters, Inc. — which is controlled by investor Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway.”

  • Lara’s interference looks like pay-to-play Sacramento sleaze

    “Lara intervened in several proceedings ‘involving a company with ties to insurance executives and their spouses who donated tens of thousands of dollars to his re-election campaign.’  The administrative law judges’ rulings Lara involved himself in were in cases involving Applied Underwriters and its subsidiary, California Insurance Co.…this appears to be classic Sacramento pay-to-play sleaze...the nearly 40 million Californians he represents — should be deeply disappointed.”

  • State insurance commissioner accepted contributions and intervened in cases affecting donor, records show

    Lara’s office intervened in at least four proceedings…overruled two decisions by Department of Insurance judges and ordered the reopening of cases which involved Applied Underwriters. His office issued two stay orders last month in other cases that challenged the cost of workers’ compensation policies sold by Applied… his office… reversed a judge’s decision that the insurer must reimburse excessive fees…Lara’s intervention…raises questions about whether the political contributions influenced his decisions…” 

  • Troubling behavior from California’s Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara

    “more than $53,000 in campaign donations…from people linked to an insurance company with business pending before the commissioner…Lara violated his own pledge not to take insurance industry contributions…It’s very difficult to believe that Lara, who was acting as his own campaign treasurer, didn’t know the provenance of the contributions, given that they represented most of the donations to his campaign fund.”

  • Insurance Commissioner’s campaign cash scandal raising troubling questions

    “Shady and suspicious…Instead of taking the money directly from insurance industry executives, Lara in some cases received large checks from their relatives. The apparent structuring of these contributions to hide the true origins of the money raises serious ethical questions for Lara to answer…how did these insurance interests all decide on the strategy of funneling their contributions to Lara through their wives’ checking accounts? Did Lara know they were doing this?…He must come clean…”

  • State’s top insurance regulator accepted tens of thousands of dollars from industry executives, records show

    “Regulators are not supposed to accept donations from people with business before the agency …Election filings show that much of the money Lara has accepted in recent months came from donors with ties to Applied Underwriters, a workers’ compensation insurer that is part of a proposed transaction that requires the approval of the California insurance commissioner… Applied Underwriters…has a record of misleading customers.”