- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 1, 2000

Noble: Ralph Nader, for pulling a Ross Perot on Al Gore. A good deed done for misguided reasons is still a good deed. That's why Ralph Nader is the The Washington Times' noble of the week.

Mr. Nader is bringing democracy home to roost in the Democratic Party much to Vice President Al Gore's chagrin. The consumer rights advocate made famous for his attack on the Chevrolet Corvair is the Green Party's presidential candidate, and he is polling 7 percent nationally. This support, which is primarily out of the ranks of Mr. Gore's coalition, is clearly not a good sign for the vice president. Mr. Nader's candidacy therefore is a perfect example of democracy at its best, offering many choices for many points of view even extremist or nonsensical points of view such as Mr. Nader's.

All this may be good for democracy, but not for Mr. Gore. Mr. Nader's bite out of the electorate is particularly painful in a few key states. "California is doable for [Republican George W.] Bush because Nader is likely to get one out of ten votes in the liberal Bay Area he polled four percent there in 1996 while spending zero money," the Wall Street Journal's John Fund wrote recently. Oregon, which has voted Democrat in the last three presidential elections is likewise in flux.

The Democrats are not the only ones to lose voters to third party candidates. In 1992 and to a lesser degree in 1996, Republicans suffered at the hands of Ross Perot and his Reform Party. This year the GOP will likely lose some votes to the Reform Party again, although this time the candidate will likely be Patrick Buchanan. In any event, it is a pleasure to see a little democracy inflicted on the Democrats as well.

n Knave: California Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush, for being corrupt. Chuck Quakenbush is a knave. (No, we are not playing games with his name.) As insurance commissioner he was supposed to keep California's indemnity companies honest. Instead, he became the center of one of the largest corruption scandals to hit California in recent years. He resigned in disgrace on Wednesday.

It all started with the Northridge earthquake of 1994. In the years following the quake several insurance companies were accused of mishandling claims; some insured homeowners still have not be paid for damage caused by the quake. Instead of forcing those firms to pay up, Mr. Quackenbush's office helped them avoid $3.3 billion in fines.

The firms paid $12 million to the California Research and Development Foundation, which has since been depicted as a slush fund for Mr. Quackenbush to use in furthering his political goals. Three million went to public service announcements featuring Mr. Quackenbush. The legislature learned that the money was also parceled out in smaller sums, such as the $263,000 in foundation money given to a football camp attended by Mr. Quackenbush's children and $500,000 given to the Greater Sacramento Urban League whose board includes Mr. Quackenbush. Meanwhile many Californians have yet to get paid on insurance claims from the earthquake that killed 57 people and caused more than $40 billion in damage.

Mr. Quackenbush's actions also had political ramifications. He was one of only two Republicans to hold statewide office in California. (The other is Secretary of State Bill Jones.) His resignation takes his name off the table for more powerful offices, such as governor or U.S. senator.

Mr. Quackenbush's resignation saved his party embarrassing impeachment proceedings, and his departure from office was timed to avoid testifying in front of the legislature, which was to start an impeachment inquiry. Even Republicans lost patience with the insurance commissioner. "If he betrayed the basic Republican principle of limited government, the Republicans above all will insist on his removal from office," Northridge Republican Assemblyman Tom McClintock said.

Mr. Quackenbush not only lost his political principles, he lost his moral compass. And he did that while heading a legal body set up to protect the fidelity of insurance contracts. For that he is a knave.

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