D.C. insurance firm pitches campaign policy around U.S.

There might be no sure thing in politics, but an Alexandria insurance firm wants political campaigns to know they can at least protect themselves from the unthinkable.

The firm, Clarke and Sampson, has been traveling the Hill and pitching a new product to the major parties’ campaign committees — political campaign insurance.

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While insurance still can’t guarantee a candidate will win, the firm’s comprehensive policy does promise to protect increasingly expensive campaigns from a variety of frequently found pitfalls.

Most notably, the policy offers liability insurance that is often required when a campaign rents space for an event. Most campaigns now take out single-day liability policies, but these are expensive and are often put together at the last minute, when the campaigns learn they can’t rent space without one.

The Alexandria firm’s policy would cover liability claims up to a limit of $1 million for any one claim with a $2 million policy total. The minimum annual premiums are $5,000 for congressional and gubernatorial races and $2,500 for state legislative races.

Besides liability, the campaign insurance covers claims on sexual harassment, workers’ compensation, embezzlement and identity theft. While things like workers’ compensation and employee theft are frequent problems, the new policy also would cover a campaign if a contributor’s credit card information were stolen. In addition, it also addresses liquor, automotive and employment discrimination liability.

According to Clarke and Sampson, nobody has offered a comprehensive policy like theirs.

The firm’s vice president, Bill Howard, has been working for years to get the effort off the ground.

The idea was planted in Howard’s head during the 2004 presidential election, he said, when two presidential campaigns asked about wide-ranging insurance policies. The best they could get were one-year liability policies, and Howard has been struggling ever since to get a carrier to support something bigger.

He can’t explain why such a policy didn’t previously exist, only that multiple carriers said they wouldn’t cover campaigns and offered no solid reasoning.

The new policy is set up through AIG and was launched last week. After meeting with several party committees, Howard will bring his pitch to individual House, Senate, gubernatorial and state legislative campaigns through mass e-mailing.

“All these campaign chairmen say, ‘Wow, I never thought about that,’ ” Howard said. “There’s definitely a need when somebody else asks for the insurance; what we’re trying to show them now is that they’ve actually got a need whether anybody asks them for proof of insurance or not.”

Howard said he is now faced with a unique set of circumstances: selling something that a customer needs to customers that don’t know they need it, and with no competitive market.

Howard said the two months between now and the end of January will be key to getting the project launched. The earliest primaries will be held Feb. 5.

“We want to get them early enough where they still have a lot of cycle left and they’re going to start to bump into the need for it,” Howard said. “And then it’s just going to be a matter of educating them between now and then.”