The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau turns two on Sunday. The powerful federal entity came into being just a year after the Dodd-Frank bill that spawned it was signed into law.
The Daily Caller News Foundation has watched the agency grow from a gleam in Elizabeth Warren’s eye to a precocious young bank regulator spying on millions of Americans’ financial transactions.
In honor of the bureau’s big day, here’s a roundup of the bureaucrats, union organizers and left-wing activists that run one of the most powerful — and some say least accountable — bureaucracies in America.
Richard Cordray, Director
During his tenure as the Democratic attorney general of Ohio, Cordray rushed to defend three Ohio bureaucrats accused of using state databases to spy on Joe Wurzelbacher, also known as “Joe the Plumber.”
In 2008, Wurzelbacher challenged then-candidate Barack Obama on his tax policy during a presidential campaign event in an Ohio neighborhood. That prompted three Ohio state officials to illegally comb through Wurzelbacher’s state records, hoping to dig up dirt. The workers were eventually fired or forced to resign, and Wurzelbacher sued them for breach of privacy in 2009.
Under Ohio law, Cordray was allowed to decline state legal representation to employees acting “manifestly outside the scope of … official employment or official responsibilities, with malicious purpose, in bad faith or in a wanton or reckless manner.” But the attorney general instead represented the snooping state employees.
“Mr. Cordray has a record of placing politics above the rule of law,” said Tom Fitton, the president of the nonprofit Judicial Watch, at the time. “He is no friend of the little guy.”
Although a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit in 2010, Ohio voters were not as deferential to the attorney general, tossing him out in the election later that year.
Now that he’s been confirmed as director of a federal agency compiling a database on 900 million credit card accounts — which includes information on millions of Americans’ financial habits — Cordray says he will now “take all necessary precautions to protect individuals’ personal privacy.”
Good thing, because CFPB rules make it all but impossible for the president, Congress or the courts to remove the director before his five-year term is up.
Steve Antonakes, Deputy Director
At an appearance earlier this month before the House Committee on Financial Services, Antonakes was unable to give even “an accurate range” on the number of Americans whose financial transactions are being monitored by the Bureau. Given his two decades of experience as a government bureaucrat, first at the ultra-liberal Massachusetts Division of Banks and then at a slew of federal banking supervision agencies, perhaps his unpreparedness isn’t too surprising.
Antonakes had a NeighborWorks America’s Government Service Award given to him in May 2007 for his work combating bank foreclosures. NeighborWorks America is a nonprofit in charge of doling out taxpayer dollars for low-income housing. Several former and current Obama administration officials sit on the group’s board, and it was a large donor to ACORN before Congress cut off that group’s access to taxpayer funds.
Zixta Martinez, Associate Director for External Affairs
Martinez’s employment history features no shortage of liberal organizations. She’s worked at Freddie Mac, the National Fair Housing Alliance, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the National Council of La Raza. She is now the public face of the CFPB.
Gail Hillebrand, Associate Director for Consumer Education and Engagement
Hillebrand is a West Coast lawyer who founded and chaired the California Reinvestment Committee, a decades-old group that “advocates for the right of low-income communities and communities of color to have fair and equal access to banking and other financial services.” Where before she could only advocate, Hillebrand can now openly pressure banks to lend to consumers with a high default risk.
David Silberman, Associate Director for Research, Markets and Regulations
With his long list of union contacts, Silberman brings the muscle to the bureau. In the past, he’s worked as a lawyer for the AFL-CIO and was CEO of Union Privilege, an AFL-CIO company that disburses financial benefits to union members. He also graduated from Harvard Law, where CFPB creator Elizabeth Warren taught for nearly two decades.
Catherina Galicia, Assistant Director for Legislative Affairs
The bureau’s chief legislative liaison has a lot of experience with lawmakers on one side of the aisle. Galicia has worked for a whole host of liberal Democratic politicians over the years, including Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson of South Dakota and former Connecticut Democrat Sen. Chris Dodd, who put the Dodd in Dodd-Frank.
Chris Vaeth, Assistant Director for Community Affairs
Another Harvard man, Vaeth is an alum of George Soros’ Open Society Institute, where he was a senior program associate. He was also a field director at left-wing student group Democracy Matters and a community organizer at Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice.
Camille Busette, Assistant Director for Financial Education
Busette is a former researcher at the Center for American Progress, a powerful left-wing think tank based in Washington. She also once headed the privacy division at Intuit, a tax and finance company. That experience hasn’t stopped her from helping conduct the broadest financial surveillance program in American history, however.
Happy Dodd-Frank Day, everybody!
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