Insurance Commissioner Lara’s many indiscretions have been ably laid out in a Sacramento Bee Op-Ed questioning if he will even make it through his first term. He has taken money from insurance companies and their lobbyists when he promised he would not. He charges taxpayers for a second residence in Sacramento while many Californians struggle to afford our own mortgage payments and rents. He long resisted calls to release his official calendar, which contained his “relationship building” appointments with people in the insurance industry who are already contributing to his 2022 reelection campaign. And he has repeatedly lied about all of it.
Unsurprisingly, Lara has since publicly apologized for these actions, blamed his staff and his own ignorance, and promised better behavior in the future. Whether his failings are intentional acts of corruption or mere administrative incompetence is irrelevant. He is either a dishonest politician or someone who can’t be trusted with regulatory oversight of the world’s fourth largest insurance market.
Many may argue that corruption is endemic to politics and that Lara’s behavior is no worse than that of other politicians. This may be true, but is beside the point. When clear and unambiguous evidence of such wrongdoing exists, as it does in this case, it is the responsibility of voters to protect our right to officials who serve us, not those they should be regulating. In 1988, the voters of California made the office of Insurance Commissioner elected rather than appointed by the governor. It is time for us to use our own oversight to demand fidelity from our public officials. It is not the duty of those we elected to regain our trust; it is their responsibility to not act in ways that call it into question in the first place.
Lara’s past accomplishments in the California legislature have been impressive. As the first openly gay individual elected to statewide office, he is part of our increasingly inclusive California government and culture. His own background as a child of immigrants, fighting for and earning success, is a narrative shared by many Californians, past and present. But none of this excuses his recent actions. If anything, it merely makes them more damning. As a long time public servant, Mr. Lara surely knows that his responsibility is to the voters and that he is not entitled to their faith and support, but must earn it through responsible governance.
Lara, however, is only a symptom of the inevitable problems that face a stagnant, one-party state. As the Republicans—affiliated with a national party that has grown toxic to most Californians—continue their self-inflicted decline in power, the California Democratic Party has gained an unchallenged hegemony that has survived repeated scandals with the message that there are no viable alternatives to their rule. Californians have become so obsessed with corruption in the United States federal government, that they have forgotten that if California voters do not police our own government, no one else will.
We in the California National Party call on all California voters to make it clear that we will accept neither blatant corruption nor unconcerned irresponsibility from our elected officials. If Ricardo Lara will not show true contrition by tendering his resignation, it is up to the voters of California to see to his removal. But we also ask that California voters take this as an opportunity to recognize the need for real, competitive politics here at home, and that this can best be accomplished by supporting the only political party whose mission is to support policies and candidates who are focused on what’s best for California. The California National Party is that party.