GOP lawmaker, pockets full of bank money, leads attack on consumer office

Texas Republican Jeb Hensarling, who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, was trying to be funny. This is the only explanation.

Otherwise, we’re left to assume that Hensarling was the world’s biggest corporate con artist and hypocrite when he accused the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau of “abusing his authority.”

In a controversial hearing this week that bordered on outright abuse, Hensarling told CFPB director Richard Cordray that “the president is clearly justified in firing you and I call on the president – again – to do. exactly that, and to do it immediately “.

“American consumers need competitive markets and a cop on the ground to protect them from fraud and deception,” he growled. “They don’t need Washington’s elites to trample on their freedom of choice and choose their financial products for them.”

Make no mistake about it: Hensarling doesn’t give a damn about American consumers, and he’s certainly not pushing a “cop on the beat” to keep banks online. What he wants is to free his deep-pocketed corporate companies from the regulatory oversight that has resulted in billions of dollars being paid back to customers.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Hensarling, 59, has made money industry since his first election to Congress in 2003.

The main donor of his campaign efforts over the years is JPMorgan Chase, who has contributed $ 106,686. The second largest donor is Bank of America, which raised $ 86,250.

Hensarling’s third donor is the rest of the banking industry in the form of the American Bankers Assn., Which gave him $ 85,300.

On a sectoral basis, it received $ 1.3 million from commercial banks, $ 1.4 million from securities and investment companies, $ 1.4 million from insurers and $ 703,304 from corporations. financing and credit.

And is he a guy who has the best financial interests of consumers at heart?

“Jeb Hensarling has a long, long list of contributions from banks and businesses on Wall Street,” Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League, told me. “He and his committee have set their sights on the CFPB because the CFPB has been so successful in protecting consumers from scams. “

Since opening in 2011, the office says it has recovered around $ 12 billion stolen from consumers through illegal and dubious financial practices. He oversaw an overhaul of mortgage rules, proposed new regulations for payday lenders and held dozens of companies liable for tax mischief.

I contacted the Financial Services Committee and said that a consumer advocate had suggested that Hensarling might be influenced by his ties to the industry. I asked if they wanted to respond.

Sarah Rozier, spokesperson for the committee, initially wanted me to name the consumer advocate, although it was a mystery why this should be important. All she had to do was say no, Hensarling is not swayed by the millions of dollars he has received from financial companies.

So I passed on Greenberg’s name, and an hour later Rozier sent an email calling Greenberg’s organization a “liberal group backed by unions.”

Instead of explicitly denying that Hensarling is influenced by the money he receives from financial companies, Rozier said that “President Hensarling led the fight against the Wall Street bailout in Congress.” She also said the legislation proposed by Hensarling would impose “the toughest penalties in history for those who commit fraud and insider trading.”

Uhm okay.

Hensarling and his fellow Republicans, in their first face-to-face with Cordray since the November election, spent nearly five hours on Wednesday treating the CFPB chief like a pinata.

The tone for the beating was set early when Hensarling said he was surprised Cordray showed up, although the CFPB director is required to do so twice a year when the House Financial Services Committee requests his presence. , what he did.

In his next breath, Hensarling told Cordray, a former Ohio attorney general, that he had half expected him to be in his home state to run for governor, this that it is not. “Perhaps the rumors of your political aspirations are greatly exaggerated,” Hensarling remarked.

Republicans believe Cordray has too much power and acts with impunity. They are encouraged by a recent court ruling which declared the CFPB leadership structure unconstitutional. However, this decision will be reviewed by the United States Court of Appeals.

“This tyranny must end,” Hensarling said at Wednesday’s hearing, diving deep into his muddy bucket of hyperbole.

He and other Republicans want to replace the sole director of the bureau with a more easily influenced committee and want to control the CFPB budget, which would of course make it vulnerable to industry lobbying.

After Republicans took turns licking each other, frequently denying Cordray a chance to respond, Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) Commented, “Boy, they really hate you, don’t they?”

Cordray replied that “it’s part of the game”.

This is not a game. If the CFPB failed in its mission to protect consumers, the legislator would have the right to demand changes. But the office’s record is one of unqualified success, much to the dismay of the big banks and financial firms.

“President Hensarling is furious with the CFPB because it works, protects consumers and holds banks and lenders accountable for their actions,” said Christine Hines, legislative director of the National Association. consumer advocates.

“He made it clear that his leadership on the Financial Services Committee was strictly in the best interests of the industry,” she said.

Of all the House members running for re-election last year, Hensarling was the second largest recipient of contributions from commercial banks ($ 274,900), topped only by Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan ($ 344,399), according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) Seemed to put his finger on it when he told Cordray this week’s hearing was little more than political theater.

“It’s not really all of that,” he said. “This is the CFPB diverting money into the pockets of American workers, not financial interests.”

You can take that to the bank.

David LazareThe column runs on Tuesdays and Fridays. It can also be seen daily on KTLA-TV Channel 5 and followed on Twitter. @Davidlaz. Send your advice or comments to david.lazarus@latimes.com.


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