The donations, which are not illegal, contradict a pledge Lara made in the run-up to the 2018 election that he would reject contributions from the insurance industry.
Lara, a graduate of
The contributions are questionable because regulators are not supposed to accept donations from people with business before the agency. Previous insurance commissioners historically have declined to accept political donations from interested parties.
Lara, 44, did not respond to questions about the contributions. Instead he issued a brief statement suggesting that constituents should evaluate his record of regulatory oversight rather than the sources of campaign donations.
"I am proud of my record, and I hope to be judged by the public policy decisions I make as they affect injured workers and their families," the statement said in full.
Lara is listed in state elections records as the treasurer of his own campaign, meaning he is responsible for vetting donations that may be contributed by individuals who may have business pending before the
Consumer advocates criticized Lara for breaking years of precedence by accepting donations his predecessors rejected, or at least returned when the contributions were brought to their attention.
"You shouldn't be taking money from the industry that you regulate," said
"The insurance commissioner's office has a decades-long tradition of refusing money from the insurance industry," said Balber, who urged Lara to return the donations. "Since
Quackenbush served as
According to the Secretary of State's Office, Lara received
DeBarbrie is married to
He declined to say why they made the contribution or respond to other questions. "I'll have to get back to you on that," he said.
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
The donations from the Acuntos to Lara came on
State regulators have 60 days to approve the sale or schedule a hearing -- a deadline that would come due
"That timeline has not yet started related to the publicly announced sale of Applied Underwriters, so the
According to Applied's 9-page filing, the buyers plan to expand the company by entering the wildfire home-insurance market and marketing workers' compensation policies to employers in the cannabis industry.
Lara serves as chairman of the
Applied Underwriters, which did not respond to questions about the political contributions made to Lara's reelection campaign, has a record of misleading customers.
Three years ago, when
Applied, which is owned by
The Lara for Insurance Commissioner 2022 Committee also reported a
Public records show
The Grabers did not return messages seeking comment on the political donations.
In total, the
Lara became the first openly gay politician elected to statewide office when he prevailed in a closely contested campaign last fall. In the run-up to the election against former Insurance Commissioner
Earlier last year, when Lara was competing for the Democratic Party nomination for state insurance commissioner, he accepted
His campaign pledged to return the funds when the contributions were reported, ahead of the 2018 primary election. The Union-Tribune could find no evidence in Lara's subsequent campaign reports that the money had been refunded.
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