As detailed below, California Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi is not well today. Having no personal quarrel with him -- although I disagree with him often enough on matters of policy -- I wish Mr. Garamendi a speedy and uneventful recovery from surgery and a prompt and healthy return to his family and to his office.
That said, I have to add that I am aggravated with the Commissioner's staff and with the way in which they chose to get the word out concerning the Commissioner's illness.
In order to keep track of what is going on at the California Department of Insurance, I maintain an e-mail subscription to the Department's latest Press Releases. [Interested persons can get their own subscriptions here.] Several times a week, I will learn that the Department has arrested or convicted or obtained a confession from some participant or other in an insurance fraud scheme, or learn of new proposed regulations such as the recent proposals on "ZIP Code" rating of auto policies.
While the releases are often informative, they also display a recurring and annoying thematic tic: They never announce that "the Department" or any staffer within the Department has done anything. Instead, the releases are always framed in terms of "Commissioner John Garamendi," individually, having done or announced or accomplished this or that. The persistent emphasis on Mr. Garamendi personally only serves to reinforce the notion that he is a man concerned more with his own political fortunes and his personal quest for higher office than he is with the job that he is supposed to be fulfilling at the moment for the People of the State of California. (Even those who are more inclined than I am to be supportive of the Commissioner's substantive policies regularly criticize him for the transparency of his ambition.)
Here, then, is the full text, with emphasis added, of the Official Press Release issued today by the California Department of Insurance concerning the health of the Insurance Commissioner of the State of California:
INSURANCE COMMISSIONER JOHN GARAMENDI UNDERGOES MITRAL VALVE PROCEDURE TODAY
While working on his ranch this weekend, Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi experienced some discomfort. Family members took him to the hospital, where physicians diagnosed a problem with the mitral valve in his heart. The Commissioner is scheduled for corrective surgery today. His surgeon anticipates a swift and full recovery. The Commissioner does not anticipate a significant disruption in his duties as Insurance Commissioner or in his campaign for Lieutenant Governor.
According to the American Heart Association, 5 million Americans each year experience valvular heart problems. Additional information will be released following the procedure.
The gratuitous health statistic in the closing paragraph is a nice touch, but the glaring problem here is the use of an official State communication to refer to, and tacitly to endorse, an incumbent office holder's election campaign -- a campaign, mind you, for a different State office. I would hope, especially given that he has more compelling things to hold his attention at the moment, that the uncomfortably self-serving quality of this release comes from an overzealous staffer and not from Mr. Garamendi himself.
When Californians were persuaded to vote in favor of Proposition 103, they were told that making the office of Insurance Commissioner an elective post, rather than an appointment by the Governor, would make the Department more "responsive" to consumers. Unfortunately, and foreseeably, all that was really accomplished was the creation of yet another Sacramento holding pen for career politicians and yet another outlet for the "permanent campaign."
Get well, Commissioner.