By JACK WEATHERLY
A poll commissioned by John Mosley puts him, a challenger to two-term Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney, in a good light.
But a political analyst said the three-question poll of 1,613 voters who are “highly likely” to vote in the Aug. 4 Republican primary is flawed.
The second question is: “If you knew that Commissioner Mike Chaney supported the expansion of Obamacare in Mississippi, how would this impact your likeliness to vote for him?”
Carried out by the Republic Group LLC on April 28, the poll shows that about 60 percent said they would “most likely” or “absolutely not” vote for such a candidate.
Brian Perry of Capstone Public Affairs, LLC said in an email that the Obamacare question is “loaded.”
“If you told Ole Miss Republicans that Archie Manning supported the expansion of Obamacare they might go buy cow bells,” Perry said.
It would have been fairer if the third question in the poll had preceded the Obamacare question, Perry said. The last question shows that Mosley outpolled Chaney, 383 to 340, in response to the question: “If the election for Mississippi Insurance Commissioner were held today, who would you most likely be supporting?”
Perry said that Chaney is “no shrinking violet,” and could strike back.
Under the Affordable Care Act of 2010, otherwise known as Obamacare, the federal government gave states the option to set up their own health-insurance exchanges whereby poverty level residents and others would be able to buy coverage at a discount.
Only 17 states opted to do that, the others defaulting to the federal government or forming “partnerships” with it.
Chaney said in a telephone interview on Friday he had “pushed” for a state-based health insurance exchange instead of a federal exchange, “which we now have in the state. I refused to do a partnership with the feds simply because we end up handling all their problems for them.
“I still answer the questions. And we get a host of questions. You can’t tell people: that’s not our business, call Wasshington, D.C.”
Gov. Phil Bryant had “been on board, saying we needed a state-based exchange,” then changed his mind.
“I said, ‘Phil, I’m so far down the road with what we’re doing I don’t think I can say that I won’t do anything, but what I can say . . . is that I don’t think we can do anything till after the elections [in November 2012].’”
Accused at a Tupelo gathering of being for Obamacare, he said he was not and said he told his accuser and the rest of the 200 or so in attendance that “if you don’t want Obamacare you need to vote for my man Romney.”
A YouTube posting on Aug. 1, 2013 by the Mississippi Republican Party showed Chaney saying:
“I’m not a fan of Obamacare . . . I don’t think it’s a good law, but it is my job as commissioner to enforce the law and do the right thing for the people of Mississippi. The act may fall apart, but you better be prepared with a plan in case it doesn’t fall apart.”
Chaney also set up an exchange for small businesses to buy health insurance for their employees. The exchange is still in operation. Chaney spokesman Joseph Ammerman had incorrectly said in an earlier article that exchange was defunct.
Mosley has been critical of Chaney for taking campaign contributions from “big” insurance companies. Chaney was quoted as saying in a Mississippi Business Journal article in the March 19 edition that he did not accept donations from big insurers.
He said that quote was not in proper context.
On Monday, he said: “If it’s legal to take money I’ll take it.” The Travelers Insurance group donated $5,000 to Chaney’s campaign this year. Chaney said he does not have regulatory authority over those insurers.
In the March 19 article, Chaney that “if I see where I have to regulate somebody who has given me money, I’ll refuse it.”
Mosley seized on that statement and on Monday sent The Journal a copy of a letter from Chaney to an insurance agent asking for a “minimum of $200.00” as a contribution to his campaign to help modernize the department. “I do realize times are tight, and if you cannot write a check for $200.00, I’d ask you to consider a smaller contribution.”
Pamela Weaver, spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office, said that “there is no law that speaks to that.” Also, Tom Hood, director of the Mississippi Ethics Commission, said that “it’s certainly not an ethics violation.”
Chaney’s campaign consultant, Beth Hamilton, confirmed on Wednesday that the letters did indeed come from his camp.
Chaney said in a interview on Monday that “when I say ‘regulate,’ you have to understand the terms of what I’m talking about. If that’s someone we’re investigating . . . we will not take money from them. It’s just that simple.”
Chaney, a former member of the Mississippi House and Senate, had a huge lead in money-raising as of the May 8 filing deadline. His cash on hand was $338,089.43, compared with Mosley’s $20,674.60.
Mosley, who owns Clinton Body Shop, is one of the litigants in a multijurisdictional case in the U.S. District Court for Middle Florida, in which hundreds of body shops in a number of states are are suing insurers over alleged “steering” of customers to certain body shops that are pressured to replace damaged vehicles with aftermarket parts of inferior quality.
Mosley said that if elected he will ask the Legislature to ban contributions from insurers to an insurance commissioner candidate and also toughen rules about replacement of auto parts.
The winner of the primary will be the next insurance commissioner, as there is no Democratic candidate.