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"The Republican Party has failed you"

So said Rep. Juan Zapata, R-Miami, who blames the political influence of the insurance industry for many of the problems in the insurance market. And he singled out one man: Rep. Don Brown, R-Defuniak Springs, who chaired the House insurance policy council and is an insurance agent who's "in the pocket of the insurance industry,'' Zapata said.

Zapata made the comments Saturday at a Coral Gables "idea raiser" event spawned by incoming House Speaker Marco Rubio, who left just before the wheels fell off in the room. Miami's WINZ 940 AM radio host Jim DeFede got a hold of the tape of the meeting from Miami Rep. Julio Robaina, played it on the show this morning and then phoned a confused Don Brown.

"His name’s Don Brown. And you know how we talked about the Panhandle exempting themselves [from the building code]. Well, that’s the guy who’s the chairman of the insurance committee, Don Brown," Zapata said on the tape.

"And I will tell you this much, on the record, and I hope he hears this: He is in the pocket of the insurance companies."

Robaina tried to stop him, but Zapata continued.

"I wish Speaker designate Marco Rubio was here. I hope he doesn’t chair an insurance committee because it would be a disservice to all of you."

Said Brown: "I can only tell you that, there is no question I have about 30 years experience as an insurance agent. I can just tell you in that 30 years on three different occasions that arbitrary decisions by insurance companies have almost bankrupt me and I would simply respond I am not a fan of insurance companies any more than any one else." He later said he didn't know Zapata had such feelings, but said, "I won't bring this up with him. At my age, I've learned some things are better left unsaid."

Not Zapata. Here's how he began his rant, agreeing all the while with incoming House Minority Leader Dan Gelber, a Miami Democrat: "The Republican Party has failed you, and not because we haven’t tried but I think we haven’t tried hard enough. And I think it’s obvious by the results. I think for far too long we created a system that really benefited the insurance companies. And we have been afraid."

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