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The American Council of Life Insurers named former U.S. Secretary of the Interior and Idaho Gov. Dirk A. Kempthorne as its next president and CEO, effective Nov. 3. He will replace Frank Keating, a former Oklahoma governor who has led ACLI since January 2003.
Kempthorne served as interior secretary from May 2006 to January 2009, following two terms as governor. He represented Idaho in the U.S. Senate from 1993 to 1999 and was mayor of Boise, Idaho, from 1986 to 1993. As governor, the Republican chaired the National Governors Association and the Western Governors Association and served as president of the Council of State Governments and member of the Homeland Security Task Force.
A thriving life insurance sector is key to a strong economy, helping families protect assets while preparing for the future, Kempthorne said in a statement. "It is even more critical in today’s challenging economy for insurers to maintain open communications and promote understanding with our national and state leaders, and I’m excited to lead that effort," he said.
Rhode Island Rep. Brian Kennedy said he is encouraged by ACLI Chairman C. Robert Henrikson's and Kempthorne's comments about the significance of state-based regulation. State lawmakers have opposed moves toward a greater federal role in insurance regulation, such as optional federal charter proposals backed by ACLI and the American Insurance Association.
Kennedy, chairman of the Communications, Financial Services and Interstate Commerce Committee of the National Conference of State Legislatures, encouraged Kempthorne to participate in an upcoming National Conference of Insurance Legislators summit on financial modernization on Nov. 19.
Eli Lehrer, national director of the Center on Finance, Insurance and Real Estate at the Heartland Institute, praised Kempthorne's broad mix of political experience. "To me, this is a sign that ACLI is very serious about staying in the political game on OFC and on a wide range of other issues as well," Lehrer said. "Given that life insurers are going to have to spend a lot of time dealing with a wealth of new financial regulations that will impact almost every investment product they sell, I think it makes a lot of sense that they picked someone who has a lot of experience working with regulations."
Kempthorne is well-positioned to advocate on behalf of the life insurance industry, AIA President and Chief Executive Officer Leigh Ann Pusey said in an e-mail. "AIA and ACLI have a long history of working together, and I'm looking forward to addressing the critical issues facing the insurance industry with him," Pusey said.
Henrikson, who is also chairman, president and CEO of MetLife, Inc, said in a statement that Keating was a "first-class advocate" during an eventful period for life insurers. "He dramatically increased membership, CEO involvement and the overall effectiveness of the organization."
(By Sean P. Carr, Washington Correspondent: [email protected]