According to its name, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) exists to protect consumers.
But according to the vision of its progenitor, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, the CFPB is a government-sanctioned bludgeon to be wielded against businesses and industries at the whim of its director — whom she intended, like a latter-day Louis XIV, to be herself. In Richard Cordray, the inaugural helmsman she handpicked after being slapped down (in relation to the latter ambition), Ms. Warren had a partner just as dedicated as she to punishing profitability under the guise of consumer advocacy.
Late in 2017 Mr. Cordray departed the CFPB to inflict his enterprise-crushing philosophy on his home state of Ohio as the Democratic candidate for governor. His interim replacement, Mick Mulvaney, in a previous incarnation as Member of Congress from South Carolina, aimed to shut the CFPB down entirely. In his current role, he’s vowed to make the agency “more accountable, efficient, and effective in fulfilling its statutory obligations.”
That “accountability” part, combined with the acting director’s well-known antipathy to government overreach, is driving Ms. Warren and her Democratic colleagues to distraction. They accuse Mr. Mulvaney and President Trump of — wait for it — “partisan” behavior that will destroy the bureau’s independence and derail its nominal mission.
Give Warren et al. their due: when it comes to partisanship and dysfunction, they know whereof they speak.
From the agency’s inception, Cordray pursued a strictly left-leaning agenda. In his devastating exposition of the CFPB as an unholy hybrid of vendetta and Star Chamber that put targeting successful businesses ahead of advancing the interests of consumers, former Bureau attorney Ron Rubin described how it preferentially elevated Democratic constituencies and levied fines so egregious against industries they disfavored that one federal judge declared the bureau’s structure unconstitutional.
Given that one could construe the entire purpose of the Obama Administration and the authors of Dodd-Frank, the legislation enabling the CFPB, as repudiating the Constitution, it’s easy to imagine the aforementioned judicial opinion being taken as a compliment by the agency’s bureaucrats, the most partisan in the federal government: 100% of their 2016 political contributions went to Democrats. So true-blue was CFPB’s original management that, as erstwhile coworker Rubin noted, they bent to the breaking point fair-hiring laws to prefer party affiliation over qualifications—in so doing rendering the agency ineffective in pursuing genuine fraud and abuse against consumers, if very effective at abusing businesses.
The summer before he left CFPB, Cordray finalized a rule on arbitration that would have showered a financial windfall on the trial lawyers, whose contributions to his previous failed campaign for Ohio Attorney General ran well into seven figures. A couple of months later the Bureau made sure to ignore over a million consumers’ experience in favor of the ample assistance of partisan ideologues, conveniently affiliated with a loan business themselves, to craft its rule restricting access to small-dollar, short-term loans.
Now that a new sheriff is claiming the town for transparency and accountability, the Democrats rightly fear their good times have come to an end. Senator Warren and her cohorts are now challenging the legality of Mick Mulvaney’s appointment as interim CFPB director and practicing the very same obstructionism for which they criticized Republicans during the Obama administration.
Funny — isn’t it? — how designing an agency to confer terrifying power on its director can come back to bite its creators in their formerly-privileged behinds when the regime changes?
Even if the Democrats don’t appreciate the humor, they can salvage the mission they claim to champion. If the CFPB is truly to protect consumers rather than serve as the instrument of politicized vigilantism, it can, and must, be restructured to make it answerable to Congress, regardless of who’s in the Oval Office. Mick Mulvaney stands ready to help by relinquishing his unwanted dictatorial power — and instead of fighting him, his opponents should take him up on the offer.
Nan Hayworth is a former congresswoman for New York’s 19th congressional district. She is a Republican. She is also an ophthalmologist.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.