Calif. consumer group gives Republicans low marks; AG candidate swipes back

by Chris Rizzo, Legal Newsline

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline)-Three Democrats vying to be California’s next state attorney general reliably supported consumer protection efforts this year, drawing praise this week from one of the state’s leading advocacy groups.

The Consumer Federation of California ranked officials on their support for what the group called key consumer rights bills on a bevy of issues, including financial privacy protection, health care reform, food safety, household toxics, false advertising, deceptive insurance industry practices and real estate lending reform.

When it comes to the three Democrats in the state Legislature running to succeed Attorney General Jerry Brown as the state’s chief legal officer, the Consumer Federation handed out top scores.

Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico of Newark, and Assemblymen Pedro Nava of Santa Barbara and Ted Lieu of Torrance each received high marks, with Nava receiving the only perfect score from the group.

"In 2009, on every issue that affected our pocketbooks, our privacy, and our health and safety, Assemblymember Nava sided with public interest over corporate interests,"said Consumer Federation of California Executive Director Richard Holober.

The Consumer Federation noted that not all Democratic lawmakers received high marks. The group bemoaned efforts of an informal caucus of business-friendly Democrats who often sided with Republicans to stymie consumer protection legislation.

When it comes to consumer protections, the San Mateo, Calif.-based group said the scorecard shows a clear ideological split between Democrats and Republicans.

Overall, Assembly Democrats on average voted for consumer protections 89 percent of the time, while Senate Democrats averaged 87 percent support. Meanwhile, Assembly Republicans backed consumer bills 18 percent of the time, while Senate Republicans voted with the group 21 percent of the time.

State Sen. Tom Harman of Huntington Beach, so far the only Republican candidate running for attorney general in 2010, received a 15 percent rating. Harman made no apologies for opposing some of the group’s legislative priorities.

"I am a firm believer in protecting consumers from businesses that seek to take advantage of customers; however, this group based its scorecard off legislation that I felt did little or nothing to protect consumers while simultaneously harming legitimate businesses that are already struggling to survive in our current economy," Harman told Legal Newsline.

For the scorecard, lawmakers were graded on legislative proposals that the Consumer Federation either sponsored, supported or opposed.

"The scorecard should help Californians evaluate how their lawmakers voted on consumer protection bills that affect our pocketbooks, our privacy, and our health and safety, but often get little news coverage," Holober said.