THE BLOG

Jerry Brown's Role as Truthsayer Could Give Him The Advantage Over Megabucks Whitman

05/11/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A lot of progressives in California are worried of late that California's Attorney General Jerry Brown might talk a little too much truth, and that will hurt his gubernatorial run against Megabucks Meg Whitman, eBay pioneer who has already spent around $40 million selling California on some very popular lies that polling no doubt said she should tell.

Brown's past statements over a four decade political career could be a gold mine for opponents, as the Los Angeles Times reported recently. Particularly for Whitman, whose been telling some popular whoppers in her paid-for advertising about the evils of welfare recipients, how only a business leader can save government, and why it's waste not a deficiency of tax revenue that's driving budget deficits.

A little noticed legal brief Brown just filed as Attorney General in a Sacramento court shows his true power as an honest public servant willing to look hard at issues and tell the truth about them. It's a voice he needs to stay connected to in order to win the governor's office.

Brown's legal brief is headed for a showdown in Sacramento Superior Court Friday over June ballot measure Proposition 17, which is funded 99% by one insurance company, Mercury Insurance, that claims it's spending millions only to save drivers money. Brown set the record straight in the official ballot title and summary, saying Proposition 17 "will raise premiums" on some drivers, but the insurance company doesn't want the public to hear the truth. It's trying to block Brown from leveling with Californians.

Brown's brief lays out a complicated issue to the Court clearly and simply, an honest broker voice Californians hunger for in other matters. He fights on a controversial issue for the right to make it simple for voters, and to prevent a big insurance company from promising only the sweet without discussing the sour. Here are some excerpts from the Brown brief.

The proponents arguments that the Attorney General cannot tell voters that this measure would allow insurance companies to increase the cost of insurance for certain drivers is without legal merit.

If the title and summary does not make voters aware that the measure will allow surcharges, voters will be misled into thinking that Proposition 17 simply allows insurers to offer a new discount.

What is certain is that if any company decides to offer this new discount will be allowed to surcharge drivers who don't qualify for it. And that is all the title and summary says. The fact that car insurance is complicated should not prevent voters from being accurately and fully informed about the key components of Proposition 17.

The proponents and opponents of Proposition 17, as well as the Department of Insurance, are all well aware that in the world of car insurance pricing, you cannot have a discount without a surcharge. The only people who probably are not aware of this principle are the voters.

Brown deserves much credit for taking an honest stand with voters and angering a big insurance company who has used its political influence to get around the law and elect politicians beholden to it.

Friday is judgment day for Mercury Insurance on Proposition 17, and Brown's a good bet to win. If Jerry Brown can sustain the voice he found in this case, he can also puncture Whitman's bubble and win the voters' verdict in November with some simple populist truths. Like: insurance companies don't spend millions on ballot measures to save policyholders money.