I did not support Chris Koster for Attorney General in the Democratic primary, but I can live with the fact that he won the office–although I will be keeping my heavily jaundiced eye on what he does in this role. It is from this point of view that I find myself intrigued by his appointment of Doug Ommen as Head of the Consumer Protection Divison of the Attorney General’s Office. One can certainly argue that Ommen makes sense in this role. After all he held the same office for a number of years under Jay Nixon and, presumably, did a good job.
One can’t help noticing, though, that Ommen’s subsequent resume includes a lot of collaboration with Matt Blunt and pals, starting when Blunt was Secretary of State and lasting throughout his tenure as Governor. Ommen served, consecutively, as Blunt’s Securities Commissioner, State Insurance Commissioner, finally moving onto the Administrative Hearing Commission last April.
When contemplating this fact, it behooves one to remember how thoroughly consumers were often worked over during the Blunt years. From this perspective, it is hard to escape the conclusion that Ommen seems to be a really, really good team player–no matter whose team it is. And maybe this is a good thing. Koster noted in his announcement that:
“He’s a non-partisan, as opposed to bi-partisan,” … “He’s a government expert who can really come into almost any situation you give him and fix it.”
And maybe its not so good. Looking back at his record during the Blunt ascendancy, a couple of Ommen’s efforts really stand out:
While serving as Insurance Commissioner, Ommen lobbied for legislation that would have suppressed information about consumer complaints against insurance companies:
When people avail themselves of the government and file a complaint, I don’t think many of them realize that they are turning over private information to the public,” Ommen said.
Of course, it would be possible to suggest that when this information is kept “confidential,” one is not only suppressing personal information about the complainant, but also information about insurance industry misdeeds that could be vital to consumers. Democrat Tim Green certainly thought so, declaring that:
“It seems to me we continue to try to make it more difficult for the individual that purchases insurance to receive it,” … “We’re not helping the consumers of the state of Missouri, we’re helping the industry and that’s a shame.”
Another maybe big deal was Ommen’s role in protecting brokers Waddell & Reed, a firm that had, incidentally, just employed Andy and Amy Blunt, from an aggressive investigation by the Secretary of State’s office. (See here, here and here)
Doesn’t the Bible say something to the effect that the “laborer is worthy of his hire”? One has to conclude that Ommen has proved very worthy indeed to his past employer, namely Matt Blunt. So, in addition to keeping my eye on Koster, I’ll be watching Doug Ommen as well. Of course, it may all just be hunky-dory from now on out since he is playing for a different team. Who knows?