A watchdog group is calling on California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign to return a $105,000 donation from the insurance industry that came the same day he vetoed a bill the group opposed.
The American Insurance Association donated the money Oct. 7, the day Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill that would have forced insurers to pay medical costs when people covered by Medi-Cal are injured in an accident caused by an insured driver. Medi-Cal, the state's healthcare system for the poor, elderly and disabled, pays those costs now. The watchdog group, Santa Monica, Calif.-based Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, said such payments amount to $225 million per year.
In his veto message, Schwarzenegger said he rejected the bill and a similar one last year because they would encourage litigation and would drive up medical costs.
"He puts politics above the needs of taxpayers," said Doug Heller, executive director of the foundation. "This bill would have alleviated $225 million of taxpayer waste every year."
The governor has come under fire in the past for accepting contributions from groups with business before the state, including the pharmaceutical, energy and insurance industries. He has consistently said that political contributions do not influence his decisions.
The timing of the latest insurance industry donation was a coincidence, said Rob Stutzman, a spokesman for the governor's election campaign. Nicole Mahrt, a spokeswoman for the American Insurance Association, agreed, saying the contribution had been in the works for months.