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New ‘nonpartisan’ insurance reform group has strong ties to Democratic Party

February 5, 2020
Originally posted on Greater Baton Rouge Business Report

The leaders behind a new self-proclaimed “nonpartisan nonprofit” advocating for insurance reform—notably not the Republican-pushed tort reform bill—all have strong ties to the Democratic Party. 

Gov. John Bel Edwards’ former campaign communications director Eric Holl has been tapped to lead the new nonprofit, Real Reform Louisiana, to advocate for “lower car insurance rates and stop corporate court-rigging,” the organization announced today. Holl is a native of the Washinton, D.C., area and an LSU graduate. He has also worked as a campaign communications director for the Louisiana Democratic Party. 

In addition to Holl, the group’s leaders include Milton “Trey” Ourso, who’s listed as president on the group’s business filing with the Secretary of State’s office, and treasurer Kate Magsamen.

Ourso is the former executive director of the Louisiana Democratic Party and is also behind Gumbo PAC, the Democratic super PAC that supports Edwards. 

The organization’s domicile address is listed as 352 Napoleon Street in Baton Rouge, the same address as Ourso’s political consulting firm. Holl didn’t respond to a question seeking confirmation of Ourso’s link to Gumbo PAC. 

Magsamen has been involved in Democratic politics for 15 years and has held finance roles in campaigns for former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, former Senator Mary Landrieu and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, according to her biography on Emerge Louisiana’s website, where she also serves as a co-founder and advisory council member. 

“Business groups and insurance companies have gone largely unchallenged as they spend untold millions to push a false narrative about tort reform,” Holl says in the announcement. “Tort reform won’t lower car insurance rates, but it will make it easier for insurance companies and big corporations to avoid compensating legitimate victims of negligence.” 

In later comments, Holl tells Daily Report  “this isn’t a partisan issue.”

Republican legislative leaders have said enacting their version of tort reform—the Omnibus bill—is a top priority for the 2020 session. Critics say the bill package would not actually lower insurance rates.

LABI President Stephen Waguespack—one of the leading proponents of tort reform—pushed back against the new group and its claims. 

“This new group has no credibility whatsoever. In fact, it is just the latest in a long line of glossed up, smear campaigns created to convince the working people of this state to just keep paying up so that a handful of big trial lawyers can keep their big gravy train rolling,” Waguespack tells Daily Report today via text. “It is embarrassing what they are doing, it is hurting many families and small businesses across Louisiana and it is time to take a stand.” 

The organization says it plans to advocate for: 

  • Mandating insurance companies base insurance premiums on driving records;
  • Increasing transparency in insurance rate-setting and expenses;
  • Holding the insurance commissioner accountable in regulating the industry. 

The organization boasts a range of Republican, Democrat and independent supporters—though none is listed on the organization’s website and Holl didn’t name any specific supporters when asked. 

Just two days ago, Holl tweeted from his personal Twitter account that he had been blocked by the Louisiana Republican Party. When asked about it via a message on Twitter, Holl said: “I don’t know why I was blocked by the LAGOP, which is why the tone of my tweet was comical. I have friends in Louisiana who represent elected officials and organizations across the political spectrum. I’ve worked with Republican officials on many occasions.” 

The organization says it is a designated 501(c)(4) social welfare organization.