Opinion

Richard Cordray Plays Politics

Richard Cordray, head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), is on the hot seat. In January, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request revealed that Director Cordray used a private device for government communications with CFPB employees, while failing to create appropriate records of messages with the agency—a clear violation of government policy.

And that’s not all. A more recent FOIA investigation unearthed private communications between Cordray and Eileen Mancera, a longtime Clinton donor and Democratic lobbyist. An analysis of Cordray’s text messages shows the CFPB head communicating with then-CFPB staffer Rohit Chopra—a former senior fellow at the left-wing Center for American Progress—to set up a conversation with Mancera. (The latter has “extensive experience as a political fundraiser,” having raised more than $1 billion for Democratic candidates, including more than $100,000 for Hillary Clinton in 2016.) Doing his best Hillary Clinton impression, Cordray seemingly used a private device to conceal his messages with a well-connected Democratic loyalist.

It contradicts the CFPB director’s public persona. “[There] are consumers in every state, in every community, who’ve been mistreated by financial institutions and deserve to have that put right,” Cordray claims. “So that’s an important part of what we do and it’s something that has to be kept separate from partisan politics or big-money special interests who would try to squash it as much as they can.” He often describes the CFPB as “an independent agency,” removed from the partisan politicking of Washington, D.C.

If only. According to Ronald Rubin, a former CFPB enforcement attorney, Republican applicants were regularly ruled out of agency jobs. “As screening techniques improved, Republicans were more easily identified and rejected,” Rubin says, culminating in a culture of “political discrimination.” He elaborates on the CFPB’s early plans: “The enlarged new agency would be staffed with Democrats, top to bottom. There would not be a Republican director nominee for at least five years, and if one was ever confirmed, entrenched left-wing managers could undermine ‘attempts to weaken consumer protection.’”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), the CFPB’s most outspoken advocate, was a major reason why. In Rubin’s words: “Warren, who had hoped to be the CFPB’s first director, led the one-year agency-building process. She chose loyal Democrats to be her senior deputies; they hired like-minded middle managers, who in turn screened lower-level job seekers.”

This bears out in campaign finance reports. According to a review of 2016 Federal Election Commission data on 15 U.S. agencies and departments, 100 percent of campaign contributions made by CFPB employees went to Democratic candidates. It leaves the CFPB tied for the country’s most politically biased federal entity—alongside the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Transportation Safety Board, and Peace Corps. By contrast, workers at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration gave 73 percent of their political donations to Democrats. Even the Obama administration’s Justice Department was more diverse in its workforce’s political preferences.

Hypocrisy is by no means Cordray’s only concern. Aside from the CFPB’s adverse effect on community banks, payday lenders, and other small businesses, the agency has also been accused of rampant discrimination on several grounds. Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) is on-record stating that “the CFPB has been riddled with allegations of discrimination based on an employee’s race, their age gender, [and] sexual orientation.”

Director Cordray has a lot of explaining to do.

Gregory T. Angelo is president of Log Cabin Republicans, the country’s premier organization representing LGBT conservatives and straight allies.