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Consumer Protection Agency Doles Out $16 Million On Ads In The Last 8 Months

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Thomas Phippen Associate Editor
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The Obama Administration’s consumer protection agency has spent $15.7 million on advertising so far this fiscal year.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) contracts advertising almost exclusively through GMMB Inc., an advertising firm that worked with President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign. The CFPB’s advertising purchases this year alone is twice what the agency spent in fiscal year 2015, which represents 2.5 percent of its annual operating budget, according to research conducted by the Wall Street Journal.

Most federal agencies spend around one percent of their budget on advertising. Only the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Food and Drug Administration devote more than 2 percent of their budget to advertising.

The purpose of the advertising contract with GMMB is to “grow awareness and trust of the CFPB as a resource for free and unbiased information regarding consumer financial products and services among financially active consumers,” the Wall Street Journal reported. The CFPB has purchased advertising assistance from GMMB since 2013, according to USAspending.gov.

Since the start of fiscal year 2016 on Oct. 1, 2015, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has spent $57,106,226 on outside contracts. Of that total, more than $15.7 million was spent on advertising.

Raelynn Olson, managing partner of GMMB, told the Wall Street Journal that most of the money goes to media placement and demographic testing “so more Americans are aware of and benefit from the financial education resources provided by the CFPB.”

Since it was created, the CFPB has faced scrutiny from many in Congress who say the agency’s authority is too broad and its operations too vague. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.) introduced the Choice Act in June, which would restructure the CFPB and reduce regulations on financial institutions.

Created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, the CFPB is a unique federal agency that has a dual mission of investigating financial practices and educating consumers. The CFPB aims “to stand up for consumers and make sure everyone is treated fairly,” according to its website.

“People aren’t sure what to make of it,” CFPB director Richard Cordray told the Washington Post when he took the job in 2013. “They’re worried about a new agency and how it will exercise its authority. But we’ve been reasonable, open-minded, accessible and genuinely focused on trying to get this right.”

UPDATE: In an earlier version of this story, we misidentified the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as the National Transportation Safety Board.

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