Feds probe GOP nominee for Georgia insurance commissioner

Jim Beck, Republican nominee for state insurance commissioner

Jim Beck, Republican nominee for state insurance commissioner

A federal grand jury has subpoenaed state work records of Jim Beck, the former insurance lobbyist and state staffer who won the Republican nomination for Georgia insurance commissioner in May.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney based in Atlanta declined to comment on the investigation of Beck, who has been the subject of media reports over holding state and private-sector jobs at the same time.

According to a subpoena obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, federal prosecutors asked the Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner for personnel records from when Beck worked for the agency.

The subpoena, dated June 19, asked for “all personnel, employment, time sheet, compensation, disciplinary history and ethics records” for Beck. It also asked for “insurance financial disclosure statements, requests for permission to perform outside employment forms, employee ethics pledges and any related records completed by or associated with Beck.”

The records are to be delivered to a federal grand jury on July 24.

Beck, who won a three-way GOP primary last month, will face Democrat Janice Laws, an insurance agent, in the November general election.

The Hands-Free Georgia Act takes effect July 1.

Beck’s campaign released a statement saying, “Jim does not know what this is about and is not in a position to comment on it. He is focused on his campaign for insurance commissioner and the important insurance issues that Georgians face, including protecting our veterans and seniors against fraud and opening regional offices where consumers can have face-to-face meetings with Department of Insurance officials.”

Beck has worked in various positions in state government over the past few decades and has been well known at the Capitol, both as a representative of the Georgia Christian Coalition and as an insurance lobbyist.

In the 1990s, he served as press secretary to Democratic Lt. Gov. Pierre Howard.

In fiscal 2011, he made almost $113,000 as deputy administrator of the Subsequent Injury Trust Fund and later as Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens’ chief of staff, according to state records.

He left the insurance job in 2012 and went to work for the Prosecuting Attorney’s Council as a victim-witness advocate, a job that paid less than $20,000 a year, while at the same time he ran the Georgia Underwriters Association, a state-created marketplace of last resort for Georgians having trouble obtaining coverage. Beck resigned his position with the GUA just weeks before the May 22 primary.

Beck told the AJC in April that he worked flexible hours, more as a consultant than a 9-to-5 employee for the state, and that his bosses were happy with his performance.

He had a similar set-up in 2005, when he worked for the Department of Community Affairs while serving as a registered lobbyist for Nationwide Insurance.

On his financial disclosure filed in March, Beck listed the underwriters job, with salaries and wages of almost $250,000 last year, and a net worth of $3.7 million.

He listed owning more than a dozen pieces of property, valued at $1.5 million. One of his rental properties was the subject of news reports after investigators from Hudgens’ office and local officials said it appeared someone torched it last year. Beck had it insured through his underwriters association.

As of the end of March — the last time candidates had to file reports — Beck had collected $1.16 million in contributions to his campaign, almost all of the money coming from personal loans or donations from his bank account.

He won 60 percent of the GOP primary vote in May, beating, among others, Jay Florence, a former insurance commissioner’s office staffer who was Hudgens’ pick for the job.