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Jeffrey Kurzweil: part of the insurance coalition The second time proved the charm in the insurance industry’s efforts to win government coverage of claims that might arise from future terrorism incidents. The trick, insurers found, was to step back and let their policyholders take the lead in lobbying Congress. Insurance companies first pushed for federal relief days after September 11, 2001. But they didn’t succeed until this past November, when Congress passed the Terrorism Risk Protection Act. For the next three years, the government will cover the costs of insurance arising from terrorist acts in certain circumstances. Under the act, an insurer will have to cover a certain amount of any claim; the rest will be picked up by the government. For the first year, the companies will have to cover an amount equal to 7 percent of their previous year’s premiums, rising to 10 percent in the second year and 15 percent in the third. The law also caps the government’s total payout at $100 billion. Some leading industry lobbyists, such as the American Insurance Association, had an important hand in the bill’s triumph. But one of the strongest factors in its success was a powerful and tightly choreographed effort by affected businesses to back insurers’ demands. Sixty-seven groups and companies came together to form the Coalition to Insure Against Terrorism. The steering committee consisted of the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts, the Real Estate Roundtable, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Financial Services Roundtable, the National Football League, Marriott International, and Host Marriott. “We weren’t looking to upend each other, or self-promote ourselves,” says Jeffrey Kurzweil, a lobbyist at D.C.’s Venable who represented the Marriott and Hilton hotels and was a member of the coalition’s steering committee. “We all knew if we didn’t succeed in this, there was going to be considerable harm for all.” Lobbyists also attribute the bill’s passage to the active involvement of President George W. Bush, who set deadlines and forced deals. “At every dead-end alley, the president would open the doors and get us to the next level,” says Clifton Rodgers, Jr., senior vice president of the Real Estate Roundtable. Even those who opposed the legislation say that its supporters waged a superb campaign. The bill’s proponents “did turn the issue around,” says Travis Plunkett, legislative director of the Consumer Federation of America. “Their bragging is well deserved.” The final act is very different from the first measure passed by the House of Representatives in November 2001. That bill essentially would have created a one-year loan program for insurance companies. The House’s quick action led insurance lobbyists to expect a law by the end of 2001. But the Democrat-controlled Senate blanched at tort reform provisions shoehorned into the bill by House Republicans. The bill also suffered because insurance and business interests had set a deadline that came and went with no apparent harm. Insurers warned that Congress had to put some measure in place by January 1, 2002, when many policies would come up for renewal. “The insurance industry maybe oversold that point, and maybe made it seem the economy would come to a grinding halt,” says Andrew Barbour, a lobbyist with the Financial Services Roundtable. “When that didn’t happen, I think it became very important for the insurance industry to take a step back, and policyholders to take a step forward.” Soon afterward, the Coalition to Insure Against Terrorism took the lead in the fight for the bill. “The business community has really pulled its weight on this issue,” says Julie Gackenbach, assistant vice president of the National Association of Independent Insurers. “They had very high-level senior executives keep picking up the phone and saying, ‘I really need this legislation.’” Most of the act’s supporters are pleased with the final law. “There may be a provision here and there that [some] in the coalition may have wished turned out different because of their parochial interests,” says Jeffrey DeBoer, president of the Real Estate Roundtable. “But it gets the market stabilized.” -Deirdre Davidson

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