This is a local story, so most people probably won’t be aware of it – or, perhaps, care. I’m posting it because it fits so neatly into so many other, similar stories of GOP rule-skirting, corner-cutting and outright entitled lawlessness that although this affects mostly just Georgia, it has a national resonance:
Oxendine’s Actions Assailed
In his last full day in office, Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine issued himself several licenses to sell insurance and adjust claims, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.
Oxendine did not take the mandated classes or licensing tests, using his authority as insurance commissioner to waive requirements for himself that apply to other Georgians seeking to sell insurance.
State lawmakers accused the former commissioner of an “abuse of power,” and his successor said Oxendine used “very, very bad judgment” in granting himself the licenses.
But Oxendine, who left office in January after 16 years, said late last week that he had more than enough experience regulating the industry and helping to write insurance law to qualify for the licenses.
“If 16 years doesn’t give you a little bit of insurance experience, I don’t know what does,” Oxendine told the AJC. “I think that’s [worth] a little bit more than taking a test and taking a class.
My wife happens to work in the very same sort of insurance for which Oxendine granted himself several of those licenses without taking the tests to pass them. I know only as much as your average consumer about insurance, but that’s not the case with my wife, who has taken two of the exact tests Oxendine felt himself entitled to skip. Contrary to Oxendine’s claim that his on-the-job experience was even better than, you know, actually studying the material and stuff, my wife assures me that the tests are extremely specific and that she, as a 20+ year professional, had to study fairly hard to pass them. Her guess is that due to the exacting specificity of knowledge required to pass these tests, few people – if any – could pass them without studying for them. I take her at her word, and that leads ME to guess that Oxendine granted himself the licenses in what amounts to the dead of night on his last day as he was headed out the door because a) he wanted to be able to get in on the gravy train by trading on his name through working in the field he’d been regulating, and b) he estimated that he might not be able to pass the test without studying (and most importantly, of course, c: he didn’t really want to study).
I don’t know John Oxendine. Never met the man (though my wife has, several times, in the course of business, and says he’s the kind of stereotypical southern GOP neanderthal you can probably imagine), so I want to be clear that it’s not my intention to suggest that Oxendine would not ever be capable of ever passing the tests required for the licenses he granted himself by fiat. One can’t be a complete idiot and do the job he did. If Oxendine studied up just like everyone else has to (and considering that he does have experience in the field), he likely could pass the test. That’s not really the point, though. The point is that John Oxendine, Georgia’s outgoing insurance commissioner, wanted those licenses so he could enrich himself in the private sector, but didn’t want to do the work likely required for him to earn the license under his own steam. Then he saw a loophole or gray area in the law and, like so many other GOP politicians seem to be doing these days, he just exploited it to its fullest extent. Legal? In contrast to the end result in the Delay case…probably, technically. But ethical? Do I really need to answer that question, if the story made the AJC (not to mention several other news outlets)? Even leaving aside the legality question, would you really want someone as an insurance broker or underwriter who might be a recognizable name, but was trading on that name instead of on actual professional credentialing? You might, at first; it might be cool to say “the former insurance commissioner himself did my policy.” But later, when you have a claim and find out that because the former insurance commissioner didn’t know enough about what he was doing, and as a result, you’re not covered for something you thought you were – to the tune of perhaps tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars or more? I’m guessing that novelty would wear off quicker than the lead paint on cheap Chinese toys.
My favorite part of the article, though? The part when Oxendine “also said he decided against taking the tests because he worried his presence would be a distraction to other test takers.” I know. These Republican officeholders. So selfless. Always thinking of the other guy. Never wanting to inconvenience anyone.
Except perhaps the folks in his own administrative offices:
At the time Oxendine applied for the licenses, it was taking the agency nine to 10 business days to turn around such applications, according to Hudgens’ office. So, on average, Oxendine’s application wouldn’t have resulted in licenses being issued until more than a week after he left office.
“The Ox” (my new nickname for him!) says it’s OK, though, because he “said he doesn’t plan to sell insurance, even though he registered a company called Oxendine Insurance Services with the secretary of state’s office five days after he gave himself the licenses.”
I dunno how he’ll do as an insurance agent/broker…but I sure wouldn’t buy a used car from the dude.