How They Raise Premiums, Deny Claims, and Refuse Insurance to Those Who Need it Most
4. State Farm
10. Liberty Mutual
The U.S. insurance industry takes in over $1 trillion in premiums annually.3 It has $3.8 trillion in assets, more than the GDPs of all but two countries in the world (United States and Japan).
Over the last 10 years, the property/casualty insurance industry has enjoyed average profits of over $30 billion a year. The life and health side of the insurance industry has averaged another $30 billion.
The CEOs of the top 10 property/casualty firms earned an average $8.9 million in 2007. The CEOs of the top 10 life and health insurance companies earned even more—an average $9.1 million. And for the entire industry, the median insurance CEO’s cash compensation still leads all industries at $1.6 million per year.6
Profits Over Policyholders
But some companies have discovered that they can make more money by simply paying out less. As a senior executive at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), the group representing those who are supposed to oversee the industry, said, “The bottom line is that insurance companies make money when they don’t pay claims.”7 One example is Ethel Adams, a 60-year-old woman left in a coma and seriously injured after a multi-vehicle crash in Washington State. Her insurance company, Farmers, decided the other driver had acted intentionally and denied her claim, contending that an intentional act is not an accident. Another example is Debra Potter, who for years sold Unum’s disability policies until she herself became disabled and had to stop working. All along, Potter thought she was helping people protect their future, but when her own time of need came, she was told her multiple sclerosis was “self reported” and her claim denied—by Unum, the very company whose policies she had sold. In cases like these, and countless others, the name of the game is deny, delay, defend—do anything, in fact, to avoid paying claims. For companies like Allstate, there are corporate training manuals explaining how to avoid payments, portable fridges awarded to adjusters who deny the most claims, and pizza for parties to shred documents.
The insurance industry is in dire need of reform. For too many insurance companies, profits have clearly trumped fair dealing with policyholders. The industry has done all it can to maximize its profits and rid itself of claims. Allstate CEO Thomas Wilson outlined the strategy when he said the company had “begun to think and act more like a consumer products company.”176 Allstate has enjoyed a return double that of the S&P 500, but its policyholders have suffered cancellations, nonrenewals, and punishing loss-prevention techniques.177 Wilson has been unrepentant: “Our obligation is to earn a return for our shareholders.”178 Wilson is one of many insurance leaders who have lost sight of their legal and ethical responsibility to policyholders. Now they answer only to Wall Street. The time is due for insurance reform that will level the playing field for consumers.
Allstate—The Worst Insurance Company in America
CEO: Thomas Wilson 2007 compensation $10.7 million (predecessor Edward Liddy made $18.8 million in compensation and an additional $25.4 million in retirement benefits)
One company stood out above all others. Allstate’s concerted efforts to put profits over policyholders has earned its place as the worst insurance company in America. According to CEO Thomas Wilson, Allstate’s mission is clear: “our obligation is to earn a return for our shareholders.” Unfortunately, that dedication to shareholders has come at the expense of policyholders. The company that publicly touts its “good hands” approach privately instructs agents to employ a “boxing gloves” strategy against its own policyholders.1 In the words of former Allstate adjuster Jo Ann Katzman, “We were told to lie by our supervisors—it’s tough to look at people and know you’re lying.
There is no greater poster child for insurance industry greed than Allstate. According to CEO Thomas Wilson, Allstate’s mission is clear: “our obligation is to earn a return for our shareholders.”9 Unfortunately, that dedication to shareholders has come at a price. According to investigations and documents Allstate was forced to make public, the company systematically placed profits over its own policyholders. The company that publicly touts its “good hands” approach privately instructs agents to employ a hardball “boxing gloves” strategy against its own policyholders.10 Allstate’s confrontational attitude towards its own policyholders was the brain child of consulting giant McKinsey & Co. in the mid-1990s. McKinsey was tasked with developing a way to boost Allstate’s bottom line.11 McKinsey recommended Allstate focus on reducing the amount of money it paid in claims, whether or not they were valid. When it adopted these recommendations, Allstate made a deliberate decision to start putting profits over policyholders. The company essentially uses a combination of lowball offers and hardball litigation. When policyholders file a claim, they are often offered an unjustifiably low payment for their injuries, generated by Allstate using secretive claim-evaluation software called Colossus. Those that accept the lowballed settlements are treated with “good hands” but may be left with less money than they need to cover medical bills and lost wages. Those that do not settle frequently get the “boxing gloves”: an aggressive litigation strategy that aims to deny the claim at any cost. Former Allstate employees call it the “three Ds”: deny, delay, and defend. One particular powerpoint slide McKinsey prepared for Allstate featured an alligator and the caption “sit and wait”—emphasizing that delaying claims will increase the likelihood that the claimant gives up.12 According to former Allstate agent Shannon Kmatz, this would make claims “so expensive and so timeconsuming that lawyers would start refusing to help clients.”13 Former Allstate adjusters say they were rewarded for keeping claims payments low, even if they had to deceive their customers. Adjusters who tried to deny fire claims by blaming arson were rewarded with portable fridges, according to former Allstate adjuster Jo Ann Katzman. “We were told to lie by our supervisors. It’s tough to look at people and know you’re lying.”14 Complaints filed against Allstate are greater than almost all of its major competitors, according to data collected by the NAIC.15 In Maryland, regulators imposed the largest fine in state history on Allstate for raising premiums and changing policies without notifying policyholders. Allstate ultimately paid $18.6 million to Maryland consumers for the violations.16 In Texas earlier this year, Allstate agreed to pay more than $70 million after insurance regulators found the company had been overcharging homeowners throughout the state.17 After Hurricane Katrina, the Louisiana Department of Insurance received more complaints against Allstate— 1,200—than any other insurance company, and nearly twice as many as the approximately 700 it received about State Farm—despite the fact that its rival had a bigger share of the homeowners market.18 Similarly, in 2003, a series of wildfires devastated Southern California, destroying over 2,000 homes near San Diego alone and killing 15 people. State insurance regulators received over 600 complaints about Allstate and other companies’ handling of claims.19 Allstate says the changes in claims resolution tactics were only about efficiency.20 However, the company’s former CEO, Jerry Choate, admitted in 1997 that the company had reduced payments and increased profit, and said, “the leverage is really on the claims side. If you don’t win there, I don’t care what you do on the front end. You’re not going to win.”21 For four years, Allstate refused to give up copies of the McKinsey documents, even when ordered to do so repeatedly by courts and state regulators. In court filings, the company described its refusal as “respectful civil disobedience.”22 In Florida, regulators finally lost their patience after Allstate executives arrived at a hearing without documents they had been subpoenaed to bring. Only after Allstate was suspended from writing new business did the company, in April 2008, finally agree to produce some 150,000 documents relating to its claim review practices.23 Still, some commentators believe many critical document were missing.
Allstate’s “boxing gloves” strategy boosted its bottom line. The amount Allstate paid out in claims dropped from 79 percent of its premium income in 1996 to just 58 percent ten years later.25 In auto claims, the payouts dropped from 63 percent to just 47 percent.26 Allstate saw $4.6 billion in profits in 2007, more than double the level of profits it experienced in the 1990s. In fact, the company is so awash in cash that it began buying back $15 billion worth of its own stock, despite the fact that the company was simultaneously threatening to reduce coverage of homeowners because of risk of weather-related losses.27 Despite its treatment of policyholders, Allstate’s recent corporate strategy has focused on identifying and retaining loyal customers, those who are more likely to stay with the company and not shop around. The target demographic, as former Allstate CEO Edward Liddy said, is “lifetime value customers who buy more products and stay with us for a longer period of time. That’s Nirvana for an insurance company.”28
Loyalty only runs one way, however. While Allstate focuses on customers who will stick with it for the long haul, the company is systematically withdrawing from entire markets. Allstate or its affiliates have stopped writing home insurance in Delaware, Connecticut, and California, as well as along the coasts of many states, including Maryland and Virginia.29 In Louisiana, Allstate has repeatedly tried to dump its policyholders. In 2007, the company tried to drop 5,000 customers just days after the expiration of an emergency rule preventing insurance companies from canceling customers hit by Katrina. Allstate dropped them for allegedly not showing intent to repair their properties. After an investigation by the Louisiana Insurance Department, Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon said, “[A]t best, it was a very ill-conceived and sloppy inspection program. At worst, they wanted off of those properties.”30 Allstate also used an apparent loophole in the law by offering its policyholders a “coverage enhancement” which the company would later argue was a new policy, and thus exempt from non-renewal protection.31 In Florida, Allstate has dropped over 400,000 homeowners since 2004.32 The move has landed Allstate in trouble with regulators because the company appears to be keeping customers if they also have an auto insurance policy with Allstate. Florida law prohibits the sale of one type of insurance to a customer based on their purchase of another line of coverage.33 Allstate officials have acknowledged that most of the 95,000 customers nonrenewed in 2005 and 2006 were homeowners-only customers. The company ran afoul of regulators in New York for the same reason, and was forced to discontinue the practice.34 In California, while other major homeowner insurers, including State Farm and Farmers, agreed to cut rates, Allstate demanded double-digit rate increases in what the former insurance commissioner described as an “exit strategy.” John Garamendi, now the Lieutenant Governor, said, “[T]hey’ve said they want to get out of the homeowners business in a market that is competitive, healthy and profitable.”35 Consumer advocates have also complained that Allstate put an ambiguous provision in homeowners’ policies that may have deceived some policyholders into thinking they had coverage for wind damage when they did not. Socalled “anti-concurrent-causation” clauses state that wind
and rain damage—damage covered under the policy— is excluded if significant flood damage occurs as well. Therefore, those with policies covering wind and rain damage and “hurricane deductibles” still faced the prospect of learning, only after a catastrophic loss, that they had no coverage.36 In 2007, then U.S. Senator Trent Lott sponsored legislation requiring insurers provide “plain English” summaries of what was and what was not covered in order to stop this kind of abuse. “They don’t want you to know what you really have covered,” said Lott.37
10. Liberty Mutual
CEO: Edmund F. (Ted) Kelly 2005 compensation $27 million
Like Allstate and State Farm before it, Liberty Mutual hired consulting giant McKinsey & Co. to boost its bottom line. The McKinsey strategy relies on lowering the amounts paid in claims, no matter whether the claims were valid or not. By all accounts, Liberty Mutual has not become as notorious as its rivals for the deny, delay, and defend tactics that McKinsey encouraged. However, that has not stopped the company from leading the way in complaint rankings and stories of short-changed victims.171 In fact, Liberty Mutual is facing a glut of litigation from its own vendors who say the company’s cost-cutting has resulted in poor claims processing and a spike in lawsuits.172 Like several other big property casualty insurers, Liberty Mutual has also begun abandoning policyholders across the country. The company has pulled out of many states—not only hurricane susceptible states such as Florida and Louisiana, but also northern states such as Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland, Massachusetts, and much of New York. A 2007 New York Times article highlighted Liberty Mutual policyholders James and Ann Gray of Long Island. The Grays were “nonrenewed” by Liberty Mutual despite the fact that they lived 12 miles from the coast and had “been touched by rampaging waters only once, when the upstairs bathroom overflowed.” In fact, Liberty Mutual and its big name competitors have left more than 3 million homeowners stranded over the last few years.173 New York regulators chastised Liberty Mutual for tying nonrenewals to whether a policyholder had an auto policy or other coverage, against state law.174 Liberty Mutual has also gone where even its big property casualty rivals Allstate and State Farm have feared to tread by trying its hand at massive corporate fraud. While the likes of AIG, Zurich, and ACE settled charges that they colluded with broker Marsh & McLennan in a huge bidrigging fraud, Liberty Mutual remains the only insurance company that refuses to concede guilt. The fraud centered around fake bids that companies submitted to Marsh in order to garner artificially inflated rates. Liberty Mutual claims its business practices were lawful and that regulators’ settlement demands are “excessive.”175
14. “In my opinion, you vote for a Democrat, you’re being very disloyal to Jewish people and you’re being very disloyal to Israel. And only weak people would say anything other than that.”Yes, Trump is doubling down on his very controversial “dual loyalty” claims here. But he’s also revealing what he believes to be the worst trait in a person: Being “weak.”15. “I think that if you vote for a Democrat, you’re very, very disloyal to Israel and to the Jewish people.”He never, ever backs down. No matter what. He believes it to be a sign of, wait for it, weakness... 24. “We’re building tremendous numbers of miles of wall right now in different locations. It all comes together likes a beautiful puzzle.”As of July, 46.7 miles of the border wall had been built. So, lot of puzzle pieces still out there... 28. “There are many, many things in play. People are talking about videos. People are talking about lots of different things. But we do have a way of bringing what we already have, because we have many, many — as you know, we have many, many people that are unable to buy guns right now. Many people are unable to buy guns.”Trump regularly talks in circles. But when he talks about guns and the way forward on gun control(or not) he takes it to a whole other level.29. “And you know, we can’t let that slope go so easy that we’re talking about background checks, then all of a sudden we’re talking about, ‘Let’s take everybody’s gun away.'”This is a favorite argument of the NRA but bears very little connection to reality. Making sure everyone who buys a gun has to submit to a background check isn’t even on the same planet as the government coming to peoples’ houses and demanding they turn their guns over. Ridiculous... 32. “I went to the hospitals. It was totally falsely reported. There were beautiful, beautiful, very sad, you know, horrible moments. But there were beautiful moments, in the sense that these people — the families and also the people that were so badly injured that I was with — they love our country.”This is Trump on his hospital visit to victims of mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas. Very beautiful. Also sad. And horrible. But also beautiful.33. “So when I went to Dayton, and when I went to El Paso, and I went into those hospitals, the love for me — and me, maybe, as a representative of the country — but for me — and my love for them was unparalleled.”So, the big takeaway from Trump’s visits to mass shooting victims was that they really loved him. Like, a lot.34. “The doctors were coming out of the operating rooms. There were hundreds and hundreds of people all over the floor. You couldn’t even walk on it.”So, according to the President, doctors stopped operating on patients in order to come out and meet him? OK! Very legal and very cool!
The molten core of right-wing nationalism is the furious denial of America’s unalterably multiracial, multicultural national character.
The Republican Party under Donald Trump has devolved into a populist cult of personality. But Mr. Trump won’t be president forever. Can the cult persist without its personality? Does Trumpist nationalism contain a kernel of coherent ideology that can outlast the Trump presidency?
At a recent conference in Washington, a group of conservatives did their level best to promote Trumpism without Trump (rebranded as “national conservatism”) as a cure for all that ails our frayed and faltering republic. But the exclusive Foggy Bottom confab served only to clarify that “national conservatism” is an abortive monstrosity, neither conservative nor national. Its animating principle is contempt for the actually existing United States of America, and the nation it proposes is not ours.
Bitter cultural and political division inevitably leads to calls for healing reconciliation under the banner of shared citizenship and national identity. After all, we’re all Americans, and our fortunes are bound together, like it or not.
Yet the question of who “we” are as “a people” is the central question on which we’re polarized. High-minded calls to reunite under the flag therefore tend to take a side and amount to little more than a demand for the other side’s unconditional surrender. “Agree with me, and then we won’t disagree” is more a threat than an argument.
The attackers — the nature-denying feminists, ungrateful blacks, babbling immigrants, ostentatiously wedded gays — bear full responsibility for any damage wrought by populist backlash, because they incited it by demanding and claiming a measure of equal freedom. But they aren’t entitled to it, because the conservative denizens of the fruited plain are entitled first to a country that feels like home to them. That’s what America is. So the blame for polarizing mutual animosity must always fall on those who fought for, or failed to prevent, the developments that made America into something else — a country “real Americans” find hard to recognize or love.
The practical implication of the nationalist’s entitled perspective is that unifying social reconciliation requires submission to a vision of national identity flatly incompatible with the existence and political equality of America’s urban multicultural majority. That’s a recipe for civil war, not social cohesion.
Yoram Hazony, author of “The Virtue of Nationalism” and impresario of the “national conservatism” conference, argued that America’s loss of social cohesion is because of secularization and egalitarian social change that began in the 1960s. “You throw out Christianity, you throw out the Torah, you throw out God,” Mr. Hazony warned, “and within two generations people can’t tell the difference between a man and a woman. They can’t tell the difference between a foreigner and a citizen. They can’t tell the difference between this side of the border and the other side of the border.”
“The only way to save this country, to bring it back to cohesion,” he added, “is going to be to restore those traditions.”
Mr. Hazony gave no hint as to how this might be peacefully done within the scope of normal liberal-democratic politics. “It’s not simple,” he eventually conceded. Mr. Hazony notably omitted to mention, much less to condemn, the atrocious cruelty of America’s existing nationalist regime. Indeed, roaring silence around our Trumpian reality was the conference’s most consistent and telling theme.
The incoherence of an American nationalism meant to “conserve” an imaginary past was not lost on everyone at the conference.Patrick Deneen, a political theorist at Notre Dame, pointed out that American nationalism has historically been a progressive project. The nationalism of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, he noted, arose as the United States began to establish itself as an imperial power of global reach. Building nations has always been about building armies, regimenting the population and centralizing political control.
Yuval Levin, the editor of National Affairs, similarly observed that nationalist projects meant to unite the diverse tribes and cultures of large territories generally involve a program of political mythmaking and the state-backed suppression of ancestral ethnic and community identities.
Mr. Levin suggested that a genuinely conservative nationalism, in the context of a vast national territory with an immense multiethnic population, would refrain from uprooting these traditions and communities and seek instead to preserve them in a vision of the nation as “the sum of various uneven, ancient, lovable elements,” because we are “prepared for love of country by a love of home.”
But what, today, do Americans call “home”? The next logical step would be to observe that the contemporary sum of rooted, lovable American elements includes the
- black culture of Compton, the
- Mexican culture of Albuquerque, the
- Indian culture of suburban Houston, the
- Chinese culture of San Francisco, the
- Orthodox Jewish culture of Brooklyn, the
- Cuban culture of Miami and the
- “woke” progressive culture of the college town archipelago, as well as the
- conservative culture of the white small town.
But Mr. Levin, a gifted rhetorician who knew his audience, did not hazard this step.
Barack Obama claimed resounding victory in two presidential elections on the strength of a genuinely conservative conception of pluralistic American identity that embraced and celebrated America as it exists. Yet this unifying vision, from the mouth of a black president, primed the ethnonationalist backlash that put Mr. Trump in the White House.
The molten core of right-wing nationalism is the furious denial of America’s unalterably multiracial, multicultural national character. This denialism is the crux of the new nationalism’s disloyal contempt for the United States of America. The struggle to make good on the founding promise of equal freedom is the dark but hopeful thread that runs through our national story and defines our national character. It’s a noble, inspiring story, but the conservative nationalist rejects it, because it casts Robert E. Lee, and the modern defenders of his monuments, as the bad guys — the obstacles we must overcome to make our nation more fully, more truly American.
To reject pluralism and liberalizing progress is to reject the United States of America as it is, to heap contempt upon American heroes who shed blood and tears fighting for the liberty and equality of their compatriots. The nationalist’s nostalgic whitewashed fantasy vision of American national identity cannot be restored, because it never existed. What they seek to impose is fundamentally hostile to a nation forged in the defining American struggle for equal freedom, and we become who we are as we struggle against them.
Whether couched in vulgarities or professorial prose, reactionary nationalism is seditious, anti-patriotic loathing of America hiding behind a flag — our flag. We won’t allow it, because we know how to build a nation. We know how the American story goes: We fight; we take it back.
The president attributed the appointment of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, to Mr. Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the Justice Department’s Russia investigation — a move Mr. Trump believes was the moment his administration effectively lost control over the inquiry. Accusing Mr. Sessions of “disloyalty,” Mr. Trump unleashed a string of insults on his attorney general.
.. Ashen and emotional, Mr. Sessions told the president he would quit and sent a resignation letter to the White House, according to four people who were told details of the meeting. Mr. Sessions would later tell associates that the demeaning way the president addressed him was the most humiliating experience in decades of public life.
.. Mr. Trump ended up rejecting Mr. Sessions’s May resignation letter after senior members of his administration argued that dismissing the attorney general would only create more problems for a president
.. the attorney general has stayed in the job because he sees a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity as the nation’s top law enforcement official to toughen the country’s immigration policies.
.. In the middle of the meeting, Mr. McGahn received a phone call from Rod J. Rosenstein
.. In the telephone call to Mr. McGahn, Mr. Rosenstein said he had decided to appoint Mr. Mueller to be a special counsel for the investigation.
.. When the phone call ended, Mr. McGahn relayed the news to the president and his aides. Almost immediately, Mr. Trump lobbed a volley of insults at Mr. Sessions, telling the attorney general it was his fault they were in the current situation. Mr. Trump told Mr. Sessions that choosing him to be attorney general was one of the worst decisions he had made, called him an “idiot,” and said that he should resign.
.. An emotional Mr. Sessions told the president he would resign and left the Oval Office.
.. In the hours after the Oval Office meeting, however, Mr. Trump’s top advisers intervened to save Mr. Sessions’s job. Mr. Pence; Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s chief strategist at the time; and Reince Priebus, his chief of staff, all advised that accepting Mr. Sessions’s resignation would only sow more chaos inside the administration and rally Republicans in Congress against the president.
.. For Mr. Sessions, the aggressiveness with which Mr. Trump has sought his removal was a blow.
.. But Mr. Trump continued his public attacks in the days that followed, including taking to Twitter to call him “weak” — a word that is among the harshest criticisms in Mr. Trump’s arsenal.
Lawrence O’Donnell explains why Jared Kushner could be in serious legal trouble for not disclosing the Russian lawyer meeting on his security clearance form and why Trump’s lawyers are right for trying to build a wall between the President and his son-in-law.
The New York Times story was based on White House sources.
Jared Kushner’s lawyers found the email and did their best to manage the legal fallout.
Who would do that to their brother in law? Jared Kushner’s father engaged in witness-tampering. Jared Kushner’s father sent video of prostitution entrapment to his sister.
Jared Kushner gave Trump the worst possible advice on Russia — to fire James Comey.
.. To the extent that any figure in the Trump administration both embodies “Trumpism” and seems capable of executing its policy ambitions, it is Sessions, who is using his office to strictly enforce immigration laws and pursue an old-school law-and-order agenda.
You may hate his agenda (as most liberals do) or dislike parts of it (as I do), but it is clearly the agenda that Trump ran on, and the attorney general’s office is one of the few places where it is being effectively pursued.
.. So cashiering Sessions would be a remarkable statement (though hardly the first) that the president cares almost nothing for his own alleged platform and governing philosophy.
.. It demonstrates a level of disloyalty that should send sane people running from Trump’s service, it tells other cabinet members to get out while the getting’s good (and to leak and undermine like crazy on their way), and it further alienates Republican senators whom Trump needs to confirm appointees (including any Sessions replacement) and to go easy on his scandals.
.. Trump’s war on Sessions is one of the few things short of a recession that could hurt him with his base
.. But the Trumpian core also includes conservatives who like Sessions for ideological reasons, who trust Trump in part because Sessions vouched for him, and who don’t like or trust very many other people (the family, the New Yorkers, the ex-Democrats) in Trump’s inner circle. Which is why Trump’s campaign against Sessions has already brought him negative coverage from Breitbart, Tucker Carlson and various pro-Trump or anti-anti-Trump pundits — making it an extraordinary act of political malpractice from a White House that lacks a cushion for such follies.
.. This blame-Sessions perspective is warped, since it was Trump’s decision to fire James Comey (an earlier monumental folly) that was actually decisive in putting Robert Mueller on the case.
.. Trump’s logic is a straightforward admission that he wants to eject his attorney general because Sessions has not adequately protected him from legal scrutiny — an argument that at once reveals Trump’s usual contempt for laws and norms and also suggests (not for the first time) that he has something so substantial to hide that only omerta-style loyalty will do.
.. no hatchet man will win easy confirmation, and until Sessions is replaced the acting attorney general will be Ron Rosenstein, the man who appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel in the first place!
.. So it’s basically madness all the way to the top: bad policy, bad strategy, bad politics, bad legal maneuvering, bad optics, a self-defeating venture carried out via deranged-as-usual tweets and public insults.
.. Imagine, if you will, that George W. Bush had started acting like Donald Trump partway into his second term …. Is there any question that people would be talking about invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him? Not for political reasons, but because it would be obvious that some tragic mental impairment had befallen the commander in chief.
Adults of mature years know not to engage in histrionic self-pity in public, not necessarily because they avoid self-pity, but because outside of high school parties, this is a singularly ineffective way to make people like and support you. Competent leaders do not preside over staff who are leaking what is essentially one long and anguished primal scream to any reporter they can get to hold still. Seasoned professionals do not, suddenly and for no apparent reason, say things in public that make them better targets for legal investigations …
And so the only possible explanation for such a quick succession of stunning lapses in judgment would be a severe stroke, an aggressive brain tumor or some other neurological disaster that had rendered him unfit to continue in office, at least until it could be treated. I don’t even think this would be controversial, even among his supporters.
Why is one of the most ambitious lawmakers in Washington retiring from Congress?
In the political world, to Chaffetz means to throw a former mentor under the bus in order to get ahead, and various prominent Republicans, from former Utah governor and presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr. to House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, have experienced what it’s like to get Chaffetzed.
.. Chaffetz, who on Thursday said he might not finish out his term, has been considered a contender for Utah governor in 2020 and perhaps one day for the presidency.
.. The once-brash congressional inquisitor has twisted himself into a pretzel trying to explain why he hasn’t been investigating President Trump, the most conflict-ridden commander-in-chief in modern US history.
.. after graduating he went to work for a local multilevel marketing company—think Amway—called Nu Skin, where he worked in PR.
.. allegations that the company was operating as a pyramid scheme. (The company has been Chaffetz’s biggest campaign donor.)
.. He worked briefly in the coal industry, unsuccessfully applied to join the Secret Service, and eventually started a marketing firm with his brother called Maxtera.
.. the former place-kicker campaigned largely on a harsh, anti-immigration platform.
.. leg wrestling Stephen Colbert on the Colbert Report.
.. a media charm offensive that would make Chaffetz popular among journalists, whom he cultivated assiduously by passing out his personal cellphone number to reporters and accepting almost any interview request. It’s all about “old-fashioned human relationships,” he told National Journal in 2015. “You’ve got to get out there and invest the time. Work with the media!”
.. a House Republican strategy session and told the assembled members, “I am your worst nightmare.” He explained how the advent of social media had allowed him to bypass the mainstream media and, with very little funding, knock off an establishment candidate.
.. Chaffetz may have underestimated Hatch, whose mild-mannered exterior belies a ruthless political operator. There’s a reason he’s served longer than any Republican senator since Strom Thurmond.
.. There was a bit of information they were going to disclose if he ran. Things were going to get ugly.
.. Chaffetz stapled himself to Mitt Romney, serving as a regular campaign surrogate for the failed GOP presidential nominee, whom he endorsed over his former mentor, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.
.. Chaffetz, now running for reelection in 2012, quickly found other ways to nab the spotlight. Before the FBI had secured the Benghazi compound following the September 11 attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, Chaffetz demanded to visit the scene in his capacity as the chairman of the House oversight subcommittee on national security and foreign operations. He dashed off to Libya less than a month later—without any Democrats, as the oversight committee’s policy dictates—to supposedly conduct an independent investigation.
.. The closest he got to the crime scene was Tripoli, 400 miles away.
Chaffetz, who had previously voted to cut $300 million from the State Department’s budget for embassy security, claimed the purpose of his trip was to discern whether the Obama administration had denied requests for more security for the Benghazi compound.
.. He launched a campaign to win the chairmanship of the House oversight committee, then run by the bellicose Rep. Darrell Issa
.. Chaffetz campaigned for the chairmanship as the anti-Issa, implicitly critiquing the oversight chairman’s combative style and suggesting that he could bring to the committee an element of media savvy that Issa lacked. Once again, Chaffetz stabbed a mentor in the back and won.
.. one of his first moves was taking down the portraits of past chairmen, including Issa, that hung in the hearing room. Issa was not pleased. “It’s not a big deal, but it’s just indicative of what his mindset was and how self-centered he is,”
.. Fellow lawmakers, Bardella notes, were repelled that “Jason would be so willing to throw under the bus someone who really tried to help mentor him, for his own gain.”
.. He’d chaired the oversight committee for less than a year before launching an audacious bid for speaker of the House when John Boehner retired. Aside from being a very junior member of Congress, Chaffetz’s bid for the speakership also meant he would be running against his friend and former champion, Rep. Kevin McCarthy.
.. threatening to impeach the head of the IRS over his handling of the nonprofit status of tea party groups and suggesting there might be grounds to remove President Barack Obama from office over Benghazi.
.. HRC, a.k.a. Hillary Rodham Clinton, would have been good for Chaffetz’s political fortunes, however.
.. These listening sessions are typically subdued affairs, but this one drew hundreds of angry constituents, who demanded to know why the chairman of the House oversight committee was not doing more to investigate President Trump.
.. I think he used the fact that he could investigate an administration of an opposing party to his advantage during the Obama years that allowed him to be in front of the cameras repeatedly, and to be seen as pursuing the interests of the Republican Party. But I think what has people, or at least some people, in his district concerned is the appearance of a double standard, that he was very eager to investigate Hillary Clinton and has been extremely hesitant to pursue serious questions about the Trump administration.”
.. Evan McMullin, who launched his anti-Trump effort in Utah, had suggested he might consider challenging Chaffetz or Hatch.
.. “He has almost the perfect rainbow of hate. Liberals will never think he’s doing enough in that position. And of course the alt-right may think anything he does against President Trump is feeding into this frenzy against their president. It has put him in a place where it’s very tough to do right by anyone.”
.. Chaffetz, a canny political operator, has surely read the tea leaves, wagering that it is in his best interests to sit out the bruising political fights of the Trump administration’s first term lest Trump bring Chaffetz down with him.
.. he may take the path of other high-profile members of Congress and nab a lucrative contract with one of the networks, where he can maintain his visibility, build up his bank account, and bide his time for the right moment to get back in the political game.
.. his campaign committee registered the domains Jason2028.com and JasonChaffetz2028.com.