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Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

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  • Fox Business hides Newt Gingrich’s paid work for anti-CFPB group

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Fox Business allowed Newt Gingrich to attack the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) without disclosing that he’s been paid by a group trying to kill the government agency.

    During a November 28 appearance on Mornings with Maria, Gingrich discussed the ongoing leadership conflict at the agency and complained that the CFPB has been “a playground for [Sen.] Elizabeth Warren [D-MA] and her left-wing anti-capitalist, anti-free enterprise friends. It was a very abusive agency, it's an agency which did enormous damage.”

    The business network did not disclose that the Fox News contributor has worked as a paid adviser for the US Consumer Coalition, a secretive group that is attempting to dismantle the CFPB. He’s also worked as a paid adviser to Wise Public Affairs, a public relations firm whose clients include the US Consumer Coalition. Gingrich acknowledged his ties to both groups during a December 2015 congressional hearing. He co-authored an October 2016 Medium post attacking the CFPB with Brian Wise, who heads the Consumer Coalition and Wise Public Affairs. Both groups did not return requests for clarification about their current financial relationship with Gingrich.

    Gingrich previously hid his anti-CFPB financial connections when he wrote a July 2015 Wall Street Journal op-ed attacking the CFPB and promoting the US Consumer Coalition. The op-ed did not disclose any of his financial ties, simply identifying Gingrich as a former House speaker. Following criticism by Media Matters and The Washington Post's Erik Wemple, the Journal issued an "amplification" that Gingrich is "a paid adviser to Wise Public Affairs, whose clients include the U.S. Consumer Coalition, which opposes some policies of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau."

    Fox News and Fox Business have a long history of failing to disclose the conflicts of interest of their guests and on-air personalities, including Gingrich. Fox News’ Dana Perino recently failed to disclose that anti-CFPB guest Shannen Coffin has “represented clients affected by and opposed to CFPB regulation,” as noted in his recent Weekly Standard column. Perino didn't note the connection despite quoting from that column during the segment. 

    UPDATE: Following the publication of this piece, posted a November 30 op-ed by Gingrich in which he attacked "the dangerously unaccountable Consumer Financial Protection Bureau." That op-ed also did not include any disclosures about Gingrich's paid anti-CFPB work

  • Politico fails to disclose conflicts of interest in article attacking Democrats for protecting consumers

    A strong, independent CFPB was created to rein in a predatory financial industry, not cater to political whims

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A recent article in Politico blamed Democrats for the ongoing Republican campaign to weaken the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), misleadingly alleging that “Democrats are facing the consequences of their decision to protect the agency’s powerful independent director,” without disclosing the conflicts of interest of the experts it cited in support of such a view.

    Such a commission structure at CFPB has long been a goal of financial industry lobbyists and some Republicans seeking to roll back consumer protections put in place by the Dodd-Frank Act, because it would make the agency less responsive to predatory practices targeting Americans, delaying its decision-making and ability to protect consumers.

    In the November 27 article, Politico's financial services reporter claimed the succession crisis at the CFPB created by the recent resignation of long-time Director Richard Cordray “highlights how Democrats” are responsible for “the turmoil” because they rebuked GOP overtures that would have weakened the agency at its inception. From the article:

    But while the process plays out in court, the turmoil highlights how Democrats shunned Republican efforts to broaden the governance of the fledgling agency from a single appointed director to a bipartisan commission that would have included members with diverse political viewpoints.


    In truth, the bureau has been mired in controversy since its creation. Warren has built a political career railing against Wall Street. Cordray infuriated industry and inspired lawsuits. And the bureau itself is unique, investing great power in one person with almost no accountability.

    It was predictable that such a toxic mix would eventually explode. Now Democrats are facing the consequences of their decision to protect the agency’s powerful independent director. Anybody Trump nominates to replace Cordray will have the ability to undo a lot of his work. On Monday, Mulvaney wasted no time, imposing a regulatory and hiring freeze.

    This analysis mirrors misleading arguments made by the conservative Washington Examiner and the right-wing blog RedState, which both seemed to revel in the supposed reckoning Democrats brought on themselves. In the midst of these ongoing media attacks, the Republican-controlled Congress has already moved to weaken the CFPB, a fact never mentioned in the Politico piece.

    The Politico article also echoes financial industry talking points in favor of implementing a commission structure at CFPB, going so far as to rely on a quote from Richard Hunt, the president of the Consumer Bankers Association, without pointing out he has spent years demanding the agency be turned into a weaker bipartisan commission. Indeed, more than a dozen financial and real estate lobbying arms, including the Consumer Bankers Association, wrote to Congress in June asking that the Republican-controlled House and Senate move to reshape the CFPB’s governance structure.

    But the very reason the CFPB avoided a similar commission when the agency was created was because in the aftermath of the financial devastation of the Great Recession (unleashed in part by underregulated financial industry actors), the decision was made to avoid a weakened commission that would be susceptible to just this sort of political pressure, or the type of partisan paralysis that has afflicted similar bipartisan efforts.

    Making matters worse, the only Democrat featured prominently in the article has voiced opposition to CFPB consumer protections in the past, and works at a law firm that proudly boasts of its experience fighting the agency on behalf of “bank and non-bank consumer financial services providers.” Politico’s failure to disclose this clear conflict of interest is the kind of oversight one might expect from Fox News.

    This is not the first time Politico has targeted the CFPB. A piece attacked the consumer advocacy agency in November 2015 after it used research from a consumer advocacy group while drafting new rules aimed at ending racial biases in auto lending. The 2015 criticism followed a salvo from the right-wing editorial board of The Wall Street Journal, which slammed the CFPB for daring to stand up against racially biased lending practices.

    Conservative politicians and media outlets have routinely pilloried the CFPB since its inception, sometimes inventing reasons to smear the agency. Some antagonists have even attacked the CFPB for paying its employees competitive salaries, falsely claiming along the way that the agency is misusing tax dollars (it’s actually funded by the Federal Reserve).

  • Fox’s Dana Perino allows guest to attack the CFPB without disclosing he represented anti-CFPB clients

    Shannen Coffin has “represented clients affected by and opposed to CFPB regulation,” according to The Weekly Standard

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT

    Fox News host Dana Perino allowed conservative lawyer and columnist Shannen Coffin to criticize the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) on her show without divulging his representation of clients antagonistic to the CFPB.

    On the November 27 edition of Fox News' The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino, host Dana Perino interviewed Coffin about his recent column for The Weekly Standard titled “The Definitive Explanation of Why Trump Is Right on Mulvaney, English, and the CFPB.” During Coffin’s appearance on the show, Perino quoted from this column at length, and allowed Coffin to criticize the CFPB as he argued that there are “no checks and balances” when it comes to the agency. 

    But at no point during Coffin’s appearance did Perino acknowledge that Coffin has “represented clients affected by and opposed to CFPB regulation,” as noted in the Weekly Standard column that Perino quoted.

    This is not the first time that Fox has allowed guests to shill for conservative causes or personalities without divulging important information about their potential conflicts of interest. From the November 27 edition of Fox News' The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino:

    DANA PERINO (HOST): Amid the ongoing saga over who will take over the consumer financial protection bureau, my next guest says this legal battle will likely be a long one. Quote: “The dispute and the resulting litigation will cast further doubt over the legitimacy of an already troubled agency, a result that would run counter to Cordray’s stated purpose in launching his little bureaucratic war, but would let him continue to protect his bureaucratic legacy for just a little while longer, at a price of accountability to We the People.” Shannen Coffin is an attorney at Steptoe & Johnson. Shannen, take me back to 2010. What was the intent of the CFPB, and where did everything go wrong?

    SHANNEN COFFIN: Oh boy, that’s a big question. Well, look, the desire was to consolidate some other governmental agencies’ power into one bureau that would have regulatory control over consumer financial products. And the problem is though, the power here is so concentrated in one person. Unlike other agencies that are accountable directly to the president or some agencies that are made up of commissions that are made up of multiple members, you’ve got one guy, this Richard Cordray, who just resigned on Friday, who has all of the power. And a court that has looked at that said that is too much power. They have to be -- in order to be accountable in our constitutional system, he has to answer to the president. And that’s the constitutional background about this agency.

    PERINO: And doesn’t it also get its money to run, not from the Congress, but from profits from the federal reserve?

    COFFIN: That’s right. So the federal reserve pays the freight on the CFPB. Congress doesn’t appropriate funds directly like it does for every other agency. So you don’t even have real accountability to Congress. So there are just no checks and balances on the system. And this latest dispute is really another sign of that.

  • How cable news should cover Trump's latest effort to screw you over while helping big banks

    White House appointment to CFPB could doom successful watchdog agency

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    CNN’s morning news program New Day set a standard for covering the dispute between the White House and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) over who should lead the agency after the departure of its long-time director, Richard Cordray. Meanwhile, Fox News largely carried water for the administration, framing the dispute in its morning show Fox & Friends as a fight between President Donald Trump and the so-called “swamp,” while MSNBC’s flagship morning program Morning Joe neglected the legal brinkmanship entirely.

    On Friday, November 24, Cordray announced his resignation from the nation’s premier consumer financial watchdog agency and elevated his chief of staff, Leandra English, to the position of deputy director. According to The Washington Post, Cordray argued in his resignation letter that designating English as the agency’s new deputy, and thus as its acting director in his absence, “would minimize operational disruption and provide for a smooth transition” until the Senate confirmed a permanent replacement. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) shared Cordray’s sentiment, pointing out on Twitter that the Dodd-Frank Act, which created the CFPB, was very clear about the proper process for succession at the regulatory agency: The deputy director “shall be appointed by the Director” and serve as acting director in that person’s absence.

    Despite the clear letter of the law, the Trump administration nominated its own acting director: the head of Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Mick Mulvaney, a former Republican congressman and outspoken opponent of the CFPB with close ties to a lobbyist who currently represents a bank “facing the prospect of major CFPB sanctions.” Acting Director English summarily filed suit against the White House in federal court for “Disregarding ... statutory language” on the proper process of naming a new director and for attempting to implant Mulvaney to serve “indefinitely as the interim head of a statutorily ‘independent’ agency” despite his current role as White House budget director.

    The succession crisis at CFPB, and the looming court battle over the president’s latest decision to circumvent legislative statutes in pursuit of his own agenda, should have provided ample material for reporters and analysts at each of the largest cable news outlets. Unfortunately, only CNN’s New Day seemed up to the task the day after the lawsuit was filed.

    CNN reporters led with the CFPB story throughout the morning of November 27, outlining the legal basis for the administration’s case as well as the case made by Acting Director English. The network’s legal and political analysts also dissected how the dispute over CFPB’s leadership is part of the Trump administration’s broader plan to dismantle regulatory and oversight mechanisms throughout the federal government. New Day even featured a lengthy interview with former Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), who co-authored Dodd-Frank, where he highlighted the importance of maintaining an independent financial watchdog to implement consumer protections that would prevent returning to the catastrophic circumstances of the 2008 financial collapse.

    Compared to extensive coverage from CNN, MSNBC’s Morning Joe had nothing to say about the issue. Meanwhile, the Trump sycophants at Fox & Friends briefly addressed the dispute twice, characterizing it as a fight between Trump and the so-called “swamp” and wondering why the president ought not have unilateral authority to usurp the independence of agencies like the CFPB.

    The Trump administration’s current assault on the CFPB is only the latest in a series of Republican attempts to take down the agency. Right-wing media outlets, such as The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, have vilified the CFPB for years, but their calls to destroy the independent financial regulatory process have been supercharged by the rise of Trump and his GOP enablers.


    Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of “CFPB,” “Mick Mulvaney,” and “Leandra English” on the November 27 editions of CNN’s New Day, Fox News’ Fox & Friends, and MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

  • Lost in the Trump chaos: House Republicans vote to gut financial protections

    Dangerous moves to unravel post-crisis financial protections cannot break through the Trump scandal bubble

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On the same day former FBI Director James Comey testified before the Senate intelligence committee, the House voted to rip financial protections from millions of American consumers. The scant attention major news programs on the largest cable and broadcast outlets gave this crucial piece of legislation in the lead up to its passage highlights how little time major media outlets have dedicated to covering the Republican Party’s radical policy agenda amid the scandals emanating from the White House.

    On June 8, the Republican-led House passed the Financial Creating Hope and Opportunity for Investors, Consumers and Entrepreneurs (CHOICE) Act -- or simply, the “Choice Act” -- which would gut many of the consumer protections enshrined in the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010. The Choice Act targets a series of reforms designed to prevent taxpayers from being forced to bail out “too big to fail” institutions in the midst of another financial crisis similar to what happened in 2008. It also weakens the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a watchdog institution set up by former President Barack Obama’s administration to protect American consumers.

    According to a synopsis published by Vox, the Choice Act would “eviscerate” reforms designed to “make a repeat of the 2008 [financial crisis] scenario less likely.” The reforms established new processes for the orderly liquidation of large financial institutions and implemented extra supervision and scrutiny for firms that pose systemic risk to the financial system. The legislation also sharply curtails the CFPB, which, as Mic explained, would make it easier for consumers to be abused by financial institutions. The CFPB and its director are seen as one of the few checks on Wall Street left in the federal government, and have been subjected to constant attack from right-wing media outlets and conservative politicians.

    Print and online news outlets such as the Associated Press, Business Insider, CNNMoney, The Hill, and ThinkProgress have covered the Choice Act fairly comprehensively, but the sweeping legislative changes it would implement barely broke through on TV. According to a Media Matters analysis, in the five weeks since the Choice Act advanced from the Financial Services Committee to a final floor vote in the House, the legislation has been mentioned just seven times during weekday prime-time cable news programs. It drew just one mention during weekday broadcast evening news programs:

    The Choice Act got in under the radar even though a coalition of 20 state attorneys general, numerous independent advocacy groups, and a wide array of experts opposed it. In a blogpost for Economic Policy Institute, economists Josh Bivens and Heidi Shierholz explained that the problems with the Choice Act go far beyond its unnecessary repeal of consumer protections enshrined in Dodd-Frank, and Ed Mierzwinski of the Public Interest Research Group criticized aspects of the law that would rescind protections available to military veterans and servicemembers. Financial regulatory expert Aaron Klein of The Brookings Institution wrote a column for Fortune slamming the Choice Act for limiting consumer access to information. The Southern Poverty Law Center also hit the legislation, decrying it for weakening oversight on predatory lenders who exploit low-income communities around the country.

    Rather than covering the Republican agenda to roll back consumer financial protections -- which Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has labeled his party’s “crown jewel” -- major national media outlets have been almost entirely consumed by the hastening pace of developments in investigations of possible collusion between Trump’s political team and the Russian government. The investigation coincided almost perfectly with Choice Act deliberations: Comey’s May 3 testimony before the Senate dominated news coverage for days, his shocking May 9 firing dominated the news for weeks, and his June 8 testimony -- on the same day the Choice Act was passed -- generated so much attention it was compared to major sporting events. Indeed, the truly damning characterizations Comey made of Trump under oath may influence the public’s perceptions of the White House for the remainder of the Trump administration.

    This is not the first time discussions about the GOP’s policy agenda have been overwhelmed by media coverage of the Trump administration’s scandals. In March, when the White House was rolling out potentially ruinous economic policy proposals, media attention was fixated instead on Trump’s false accusation that Obama had illegally wiretapped him. Though extensive media coverage is warranted for the Trump-Russia saga and other scandals surrounding the administration, the actions of Congress should not be allowed to proceed virtually unnoticed when so much is at stake.

    Chart by Sarah Wasko


    Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of transcripts of broadcast evening news and cable prime-time (defined as 6 p.m. through 11 p.m.) weekday programs on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC from May 4, 2017, through June 9, 2017. We identified and reviewed all segments that included any of the following keywords: Dodd Frank or Dodd-Frank or Choice Act or CFPB or (financial w/10 regulation!).

  • Wash. Post Highlights GOP’s Latest Attack On The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    A Washington Post column highlighted the latest attempt by congressional Republicans to weaken the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a longtime target of the banking lobby and right-wing media outlets intent on unwinding public protections put in place after the financial crisis.

    On April 21, Washington Post financial columnist Michelle Singletary called attention to an attempt by Republican lawmakers to block new protections from the CFPB that would give prepaid card users federal guarantees similar to those afforded to credit and debit card users. Prepaid cards, which are not attached to bank accounts, are often used by customers without access to financial services, but they currently offer few protections for consumers. Some of the new protections authorized by the CFPB include requiring institutions to investigate fraud charges, granting cardholders access to account balances, and mandating that fee information be “upfront and clear.” Singletary pointed out the absurdity of Republicans’ position that they “don’t think prepaid cards deserve the same protections” as credit and debit cards and chided their “ridiculous” complaint that fee transparency might help consumers reduce their costs. From the Post:

    On this issue, it comes down to this: Opponents of the new rules object to helping people who can least afford a whole bunch of fees so that card companies can make more money off them. It’s an example of putting business interests first and the interests of the nation’s most financially vulnerable consumers last.

    On April 21, the right-wing website The New American published a column by conservative commentator Veronique de Rugy slamming the new CFPB rules, claiming these basic protections are an attempt to strangle innovative products with “excessive regulation.” Similar attacks on the CFPB’s prepaid card rules were pushed by conservative think tanks the Institute for Liberty, Americans for Tax Reform and the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

    On April 20, the Center for American Progress (CAP) reported that roughly 23 million Americans -- or one in 10 households -- used prepaid cards in 2015 for a total of over $270 billion in transactions and pointed out the danger of blocking protections for millions of consumers. CAP’s Joe Valenti noted how bizarre the GOP’s actions are, since many major prepaid card companies do not object to these new rules, and he said the only gains to killing these rules would likely be for “companies looking to evade regulation and profit from unsavory business practices.”

    The GOP’s attempt to block new public protections devised by the CFPB is the latest in a years-long assault on the agency by right-wingers hoping to curb necessary financial regulations and oust the agency’s director. These attacks have only increased with the GOP takeover of the White House, which left the CFPB as “one of the few adversaries of Wall Street” remaining in a Republican-dominated federal government

  • Wall Street Journal Columnist Praises Trump’s $100 Billion Gift To Wall Street

    The Journal’s Greg Ip Calls Trump’s Watering Down Of Consumer Protections “Regulatory Relief”

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    The Wall Street Journal’s top financial columnist praised President Donald Trump for issuing executive orders aimed to scale back consumer protections in the financial industry because the rollbacks would boost profits for big banks, ignoring the reality that the rules were put in place to protect the public, not the banking industry.

    The Journal’s chief economics commentator, Greg Ip, hailed recent actions by Trump to curb government oversight of big banks in a February 8 column, claiming this would provide “regulatory relief” by addressing “a serious flaw” in banking regulations that focused merely on “financial stability and consumer protection” and “largely ignored the [regulatory] costs.” Ip noted that consumer advocate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and European Central Bank president Mario Draghi took issue with letting banks have more leeway, but he dismissed their concerns, stating, “The worriers should relax.” From The Wall Street Journal:

    The worriers should relax. In the 10 years since the financial crisis began, the regulatory pendulum has moved relentlessly in the direction of tougher restrictions on finance. Mr. Trump’s order reverses the direction of the pendulum but there is little sign his administration wants it back to where it was in 2007.

    His order does, however, address a serious flaw in the post-crisis regulatory crackdown: In pursuit of financial stability and consumer protection, it largely ignored the costs of forgone lending, economic growth and consumer choice. Mr. Trump has signaled those costs must now be taken into account. He has asked his Treasury Secretary (now awaiting confirmation) to report back in 120 days on how well current regulations promote growth, efficiency and competitiveness. Over time, that could generate a better balanced supply of credit to a wider range of companies and households without making the financial system much riskier.

    Ip continued that the consumer protections built into the Dodd-Frank Act, the CARD Act, and the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule, which requires financial advisers to work in their clients’ best interests, “have carved into banks’ profitability” since their pre-recession peak. Ip concluded that the rules enacted after the 2008 financial crisis do little to prevent another financial crisis, except for rules that increased the amount of hard money a bank must hold in reserve relative to its debt risks. But Ip claimed the Trump administration “doesn’t appear to plan on rolling [capital requirements] back much.”

    The executive orders that Ip praised directed departments to account for the regulatory costs of consumer protections when deciding which rules to roll back, which the Journal’s own reporting has concluded could create a $100 billion windfall for investors by loosening capital requirements at banks. These capital requirements are the same ones that Ip argued stand “the best chance of preventing another financial crisis.”

    Ip argued that “a serious flaw” in the current slate of consumer protections is that they focus on protecting consumers and “in theory” could “reduce growth,” but in reality the three biggest banks reported strong fourth quarter earnings last year and CNBC reported that banks enjoyed record profits in the second quarter of 2016. These reports coincide with a February 2016 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which found that the regulatory structure created after Dodd-Frank “has contributed to the overall growth and stability in the U.S. economy.”

    Ip’s emphasis on bank profits fails to recognize that Dodd-Frank, the CARD Act, and the fiduciary rule are designed to minimize exploitation, not maximize profit. Dodd-Frank was enacted to protect the economy by empowering the Federal Reserve System with broader banking oversight and created new protections for consumers through the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The CARD Act created even more protections for consumers, including limiting interest rate hikes on credit cards. The fiduciary rule ensures consumers receive financial advice catered to their best interests rather than their adviser’s bottom line, something that Ross Eisenbrey of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) characterized as a“no-brainer” given that the investment advice industry “makes billions of dollars from conflicted advice.”

    If Ip really wants the Trump administration to focus on increasing bank profits, heaping praise on executive orders that will weaken the economy and undermine an already profitable financial industry is a bizarre place to start. Jeff Spross of The Week put it bluntly in a February 6 column blasting Trump’s regulatory rollback: “Who on Earth would view deregulating the financial industry as a good idea?” Writing for The Guardian, Nils Pratley didn’t mince words either, characterizing the concept that banks are over-regulated as a “half-baked idea” and “nonsense” while adding that there is little evidence of consumer protections standing in the way of the industry’s growth.

    Ip’s decision to defend Trump’s attempts to deregulate the financial sector may lend credence to reports that the Journal is intentionally taking a softer tone with the president and pressuring reporters “to reflect pro-Trump viewpoints” in articles. The Journal’s behavior is not surprising, as its right-wing editorial board has led a years-long campaign against consumer protections.

  • The Daily Caller Used The White House Press Briefing To Advocate Gutting The CFPB

    Right-Wing Media Complain About CFPB Salaries As An Excuse To Destroy Financial Oversight


    Daily Caller reporter Kaitlan Collins recycled tired right-wing media complaints about employee salaries at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) as an excuse to float the prospect of gutting the agency during today’s White House press briefing, neglecting to mention that the financial industry watchdog is not funded by taxpayers. The CFPB has long been a target of right-wing media misinformation campaigns aimed at undermining support for objective oversight of Republican-aligned special interests on Wall Street.

    During the February 9 press briefing, Collins asked White House press secretary Sean Spicer if President Donald Trump has “plans to revamp” the CFPB in light of recent reports that some of its employees stand to earn higher salaries in 2017 than Vice President Mike Pence. Collins further begged the question of whether or not Trump believes “he should be able to fire the head of the agency,” Richard Cordray, who has been under fire from congressional Republicans since assuming his position as director of the CFPB in January 2012. Spicer responded by saying “one of the things that you are going to continue to see from this president is a respect for taxpayers’ dollars, the money they spend and how they’re spent” and that federal employees should be paid “a fair wage for their service to this country.” From MSNBC Live:

    As part of a broader hit piece on the CFPB, The Daily Caller reported on February 7 that the agency pays 39 employees more than $230,000 -- the current annual salary for the sitting vice president of the United States. Other right-wing outlets -- RedState and the Washington Free Beacon -- joined in condemning the CFPB both for its higher salaries and for its supposed operation outside “normal government oversight,” obscuring the purpose behind the agency’s structure.

    While Spicer’s expressed concern for demonstrating “respect for taxpayers’ dollars” is welcome, the CFPB is not funded by tax dollars. The CFPB is funded entirely by the Federal Reserve System, which is also not taxpayer funded and actually serves as a source of additional revenue for the Treasury (emphasis added):

    The Federal Reserve does not receive funding through the congressional budgetary process. The Fed's income comes primarily from the interest on government securities that it has acquired through open market operations. Other sources of income are the interest on foreign currency investments held by the Federal Reserve System; fees received for services provided to depository institutions, such as check clearing, funds transfers, and automated clearinghouse operations; and interest on loans to depository institutions. After paying its expenses, the Federal Reserve turns the rest of its earnings over to the U.S. Treasury.

    Right-wing media have been complaining about CFPB salaries for years, but those complaints will carry extra weight if congressional Republicans find a willing accomplice in the White House to sign legislation cutting CFPB pay. A December 22 report from Bloomberg Law outlined how Republican-backed legislation would cut pay to CFPB employees by “as much as 25 percent” while pointing to October 2013 congressional testimony from AFL-CIO lawyer Daniel Silvers explaining the importance of the CFPB payscale:

    “Congressman, all the bank regulators have this ability,” Silvers said. “It’s impossible to be an effective banking regulator without the ability to hire competitively in the banking sector.” Congress has exempted the CFPB, the Fed, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and some other financial regulators from the GS system, resulting in generally higher scales at those agencies.

    Today’s anti-CFPB talking points follow a Wall Street Journal editorial calling for CFPB head Cordray’s termination based on bogus charges of cost overruns in building renovations and discrimination on the part of his management team. The symbiotic, years-long campaign by right-wing media and their GOP allies to gut the consumer watchdog agency has been well-documented, and they make perfect sense given that the agency remains as “one of the few adversaries of Wall Street” left in government after Trump’s election victory.

  • Wall Street Journal Invents Reasons For Trump To Gut Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

    Will Right-Wing Media’s Campaign To Destroy The Consumer Watchdog Succeed Under Trump?

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board joined Republican senators in urging the president-elect to fire the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Richard Cordray, for “a menu of reasons” ranging from the agency’s crackdown on racial prejudice in auto loans to the cost of building renovations.

    The CFPB was set up in the wake of the financial crisis as part of a new regulatory network constructed by the Dodd-Frank Act and has been a target of conservative media misinformation ever since, most of which has focused on the agency’s supposed overreach in protecting American consumers from predatory corporate behavior. The Journal’s editorial on January 9 calling on Donald Trump to fire Cordray “for cause” after Trump assumes the presidency followed calls for Cordray’s termination by Republican Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Ben Sasse (R-NE). Among the reasons the Journal claimed as justification for Cordray’s termination was the CFPB’s allegedly poor handling of anti-discrimination regulations, its supposed failure to comply with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, and reports of racial and gender discrimination from CFPB employees. From The Wall Street Journal:

    Meantime, Mr. Trump should fire Mr. Cordray for cause, and the President-elect has a menu of reasons. Take a CFPB auto-loan campaign, which involved guessing the race of a borrower by his last name, and then suing banks that seemed to offer better deals to people the government assumed are white. A House Financial Services Committee report detailed how Mr. Cordray and senior officers knew their statistical method was “prone to significant error” but hid that reality from the public.

    Mr. Cordray’s bureau routinely fails to show the reasoning behind its rules. In December the Cause of Action Institute filed a lawsuit against CFPB for refusing to produce more than 1,800 pages of documents on how the agency came up with a regulation on arbitration. Such disclosures are required by the Freedom of Information Act.


    An investigation of CFPB employment practices by the Government Accountability Office found that a quarter of black, Asian and female respondents reported that they had been discriminated against. About 10% claimed to have personally observed retaliation against another employee. The bureau neglected to fulfill seven Inspector General recommendations in this area. Mr. Cordray also stood by while a CFPB office renovation notched more than $100 million in cost overruns.

    The Journal’s supposed evidence that the CFPB is a “lawless and unprofessional agency [that] deserves a dose of political accountability” does not hold up to scrutiny.

    The Journal has attacked the CFPB before for standing up to discrimination in auto lending after the agency drafted new guidance on interest rate markups and facilitated compensation for American consumers who had been the targets of discrimination. In November 2015, the Center for Responsible Lending concluded that the CFPB’s regulatory changes had the added benefit of saving all consumers money. The Journal's complaint that CFPB is not forthcoming enough with FOIA requests specifically cites a lawsuit from Cause of Action, a Koch-funded front group. The editorial’s allegation of rampant discrimination at the agency also ignored that it was the CFPB that initiated a self-assessment of its employee evaluations, as part of the “standards for equal employment opportunity” mandated by Dodd-Frank, and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report alluded to by the Journal actually found that the agency “has worked to strengthen personnel management practices and enhance its diversity and inclusion efforts.” Even the Journal’s accusation of mismanagement and cost overruns in the agency’s office renovation falls flat: The Federal Reserve Inspector General found that “construction costs appear reasonable” and that the agency’s building “costs are below the amount previously budgeted.”

    While the editorial attacked the CFPB, and Cordray, for problems that the agency took steps to fix years ago, it completely ignored the agency’s successes. According to a December 2, 2015, article in The New York Times, the CFPB has “seized upon its mission” to rein in abuses in financial services under Cordray, including cracking down on predatory for-profit colleges, arranging forgiveness of $480 million of student loans, and ordering the reimbursement of nearly $700 million to Citigroup customers swindled by illegal credit charges. Since its inception, the agency had “provided for $11 billion in relief for over 25 million customers,” according to the Times.

    The demands for Cordray’s termination mark the culmination of a years-long conservative campaign to undermine the agency. As New York magazine pointed out in a December 29 article, Cordray will be “one of the few adversaries of Wall Street” left after Republicans assume control of the federal government, and for conservatives, “Cordray’s success at enacting new regulations is a bug, not a feature.”

  • Newt Gingrich’s Media Career Has Been Full Of Ethical Violations, Outrageous Comments, And Email Scams


    Political commentator Newt Gingrich is scheduled to speak at the Republican National Convention on July 20. 

    Gingrich, who served as House speaker during the 90s -- the “first speaker of the House to be punished by the House for ethics violations” -- turned to consulting and media commentary after leaving office.

    Gingrich was hired by Fox News in October 1999 and left the network in spring 2011 to unsuccessfully run for president. He became a host for the short-lived Crossfire revival on CNN in September 2013; the show was cancelled in October 2014. He returned to Fox News in October 2015 and had his contract suspended last week amid speculation he would be chosen as Donald Trump's running mate. (He was not.)

    Gingrich's media career has been marked by egregious ethical violations and outrageous commentary (to say nothing of his frequent trafficking in favorite conservative falsehoods like “death panels”). He has also repeatedly scammed subscribers to his email list with warnings about the Illuminati and promises of miracle cancer “cures.”

    Here are some of the lowlights from Gingrich’s career as a political pundit from Media Matters’ archives.

    Gingrich: Bilingual Education Perpetuates "The Language Of Living In A Ghetto"

    The Associated Press reported in 2007:

    "The government should quit mandating that various documents be printed in any one of 700 languages depending on who randomly shows up" to vote, Gingrich said. The former Georgia congressman, who is considering seeking the GOP presidential nomination in 2008, made the comments in a speech to the National Federation of Republican Women.

    "The American people believe English should be the official language of the government. . . . We should replace bilingual education with immersion in English so people learn the common language of the country and they learn the language of prosperity, not the language of living in a ghetto," Gingrich said, drawing cheers from the crowd of more than 100.

    "Citizenship requires passing a test on American history in English. If that's true, then we do not have to create ballots in any language except English," he said.


    In the past, Gingrich has supported making English the nation's official language. He has also said that all U.S. children should learn English and that other languages should be secondary in schools.

    In 1995, he said that bilingualism poses "long-term dangers to the fabric of our nation" and that "allowing bilingualism to continue to grow is very dangerous."

    Gingrich said days later that "my word choice was poor." 

    Gingrich: “Test” Americans “Of A Muslim Background” And Deport Them If They “Believe In Sharia”

    Gingrich called on everyone in America “who is of a Muslim background” to have their faith tested to see “if they believe in Sharia,” and for any who do to be deported. From the July 14 edition of Fox News’ Hannity:

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): I don't want to really tie this into politics, but every issue America is now dealing with, every issue that we have discussed in recent months and years about the Islamization of Europe, about refugees, about immigration, about open borders -- it seems to come together, and also political correctness and not recognizing radical Islamic terrorism as the enemy and evil in our time. From your perspective, what does this tragedy, this evil attack tonight, mean for that conflict and debate?

    NEWT GINGRICH: Well, first of all, Sean, as you know, I was in Paris just last weekend talking with people who are deeply involved in trying to deal with the Iranian government and other sources of terrorism. And let me also say Daniel Silva has a remarkable new novel called Black Widow, and the entire opening section is on the systematic Islamic attack on Jews in France, which is the worst it's been since the Nazis. So let me start with where I'm coming from, and let me be as blunt and as direct as I can be.

    Western civilization is in a war. We should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background, and if they believe in Sharia, they should be deported. Sharia is incompatible with Western civilization. Modern Muslims who have given up Sharia, glad to have them as citizens. Perfectly happy to have them next door. But we need to be fairly relentless about defining who our enemies are. Anybody who goes on a website favoring ISIS, or Al Qaeda, or other terrorist groups, that should be a felony, and they should go to jail. Any organization which hosts such a website should be engaged in a felony. It should be closed down immediately.

    Our forces should be used to systematically destroy every internet-based source. And frankly if we can't destroy them through the internet, we should destroy them with kinetic power, using various weapons starting with Predators, and frankly just killing them. I am sick and tired of being told that the wealthiest, most powerful civilization in history, all of Western civilization, is helpless in the face of a group of medieval barbarians who, for example, recently burned 20 young women to death -- burned them to death because they wouldn't have sex with them. A group which beheaded recently in the Philippines two Canadian businessmen.

    And we're told to be reasonable, to be passive, to not judge. Well I just want to tell you tonight, everybody who watches this video, this is the fault of Western elites who lack the guts to do what is right, to do what is necessary, and to tell us the truth, and that starts with Barack Obama. [Fox News, Hannity7/14/16]

    Gingrich Claimed That Obama Is Engaged In “Kenyan, Anti-Colonial Behavior”

    Gingrich claimed in 2010 that President Obama tries “very hard at being a person who is normal” but he actually engages in “Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior”:

    Citing a recent Forbes article by Dinesh D’Souza, former House speaker Newt Gingrich tells National Review Online that President Obama may follow a “Kenyan, anti-colonial” worldview.

    Gingrich says that D’Souza has made a “stunning insight” into Obama’s behavior — the “most profound insight I have read in the last six years about Barack Obama.”

    “What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]?” Gingrich asks.

    “That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.” “This is a person who is fundamentally out of touch with how the world works, who happened to have played a wonderful con, as a result of which he is now president,” Gingrich tells us.

    “I think he worked very hard at being a person who is normal, reasonable, moderate, bipartisan, transparent, accommodating — none of which was true,” Gingrich continues. “In the Alinksy tradition, he was being the person he needed to be in order to achieve the position he needed to achieve . . . He was authentically dishonest.” 

    Gingrich Called Then-Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor "Racist" 

    [, 5/27/09]

    Gingrich later said that he didn't know whether Sotomayor herself was a racist, but her quote about being a wise Latina was "clearly racist."

    Gingrich: "There Is A Gay And Secular Fascism In This Country That Wants To Impose Its Will On The Rest Of Us"

    While appearing on Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor to discuss Proposition 8 in November 2008, Gingrich claimed: “I think there is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us, is prepared to use violence, to use harassment”:

    GINGRICH: Look, I think there is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us, is prepared to use violence, to use harassment. I think it is prepared to use the government if it can get control of it. I think that it is a very dangerous threat to anybody who believes in traditional religion. And I think if you believe in historic Christianity, you have to confront the fact. And, frank -- for that matter, if you believe in the historic version of Islam or the historic version of Judaism, you have to confront the reality that these secular extremists are determined to impose on you acceptance of a series of values that are antithetical, they're the opposite, of what you're taught in Sunday school. 

    Gingrich: Obama, Dems Threatening America As Much As "Nazi Germany Or The Soviet Union Once Did"

    From Fox News Sunday:

    CHRIS WALLACE (host): You also write this, and let's put it up on the screen. "The secular-socialist machine represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did." Mr. Speaker, respectfully. Isn't that wildly over the top?

    GINGRICH: No. Not if by America you mean the historic contract we've had which says your rights come from your creator. They're unalienable. You're allowed to pursue happiness. Just listen to President Obama's language. He gets to decide who earns how much. He gets to decide what is too much.

    WALLACE: But in fairness, we're talking not just about any company, we're talking about companies that the government has put billions of dollars in with his pay czar.

    GINGRICH: No, but he has said publicly, generically you know, some Americans earn too much. So he's now going to decide that?

    WALLACE: No, he -- well he's not. He has said that, I agree, that some Americans earn too much.

    GINGRICH: So, so you want a politician to become the arbiter of your dreams? A politician gets to say, "We're gonna raise -- we're gonna have a tax" -- and they proposed this at one point -- "we're going to have a punitive tax on those we don't like. We're going to decide that you have too much money, so we're going to take it from you."

    WALLACE: So -- but you compare that to the Nazis and the communists?

    GINGRICH: I compare that as a threat. Not in terms of the moral -- look, there is no comparison to Nazi Germany as a moral force. Or, by the way, to Mao's China or the Soviet Union, all three of which were evil. But as a threat to our way of life, the degree to which the secular-socialist left represents a fundamental replacement of America, a very different worldview, a very different outcome, I think this is a very serious threat to our way of life. [Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox News Sunday, 5/16/10

    Gingrich Claimed President Obama Is "The First Anti-American President"

    From a March 23 appearance on Fox News’ Hannity:

    NEWT GINGRICH: I don't want to cry, and laughter is the second best choice. I mean, you warned in 2008, you were the one person who consistently talked about Bill Ayers, you talked about what was happening with radicalism in Chicago, you raised the issues of who Obama was really was, and you are probably the only person I know who's a major figure who absolutely got it right.

    So, Obama is a radical left, in many ways the first anti-American president -- I mean, you go out and you watch him and you think, you know, how can you stand in front of a mural of Che Guevara, who was a murdering thug, who was viciously anti-American? How can you be seen at a ball game with a dictator who, by the way, was arresting people while Obama was arriving? I mean, the dictatorship in Cuba has done nothing to accommodate the United States. Just as the North Koreans do nothing, just as the Iranians do nothing, all of them treat Obama with contempt, and it's because he earns it. He behaves in ways that are weak, and he allows them to take advantage of him, and I think that's just a fact. Now the question is, do we follow Obama with somebody who's equally susceptible to weakness and confusion? Hillary Clinton, who last night after the Brussels bombing, said we shouldn't really be afraid. I mean, is she just out of touch? I know she had Secret Service since 1992, but the fact is the rest of us don't have Secret Service, and we have every reason to be afraid. [Fox News, Hannity, 3/23/16]

    Media Matters put together a reel of lowlights from Gingrich’s career as a pundit when he was hired by CNN in 2013:

    For more of Gingrich’s outrageous commentary, see here and here.

    Gingrich Called For A New Version Of The House Un-American Activities Committee In Response To Orlando Shooting

    From a Gingrich appearance on Fox News after the mass shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL:

    NEWT GINGRICH: Let me go a step further, because remember, San Bernardino, Fort Hood, and Orlando involve American citizens. We're going to ultimately declare a war on Islamic supremacists and we're going to say, if you pledge allegiance to ISIS, you are a traitor and you have lost your citizenship. And we're going take much tougher positions. In the late 1930s, President Franklin Roosevelt was faced with Nazi penetration in the United States. We originally created the House Un-American Activities Committee to go after Nazis. We passed several laws in 1938 and 1939 to go after Nazis and we made it illegal to help the Nazis. We're going to presently have to go take the similar steps here. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/13/16]

    Scamming Email Subscribers With Promises Of Cancer Cures, Warnings About The Illuminati

    From a Media Matters report earlier this July:

    Gingrich has spammed his email list subscribers with sponsored emails claiming that “cancer was cured back in 1925” and the “actual cure” can be found through a subscription newsletter.

    The Republican has attempted to cash in on his post-politics life by becoming a consultant and media personality. He has also made money by renting out his Gingrich Productions email list to shady entities. Gingrich list subscribers over the years have received supposed insider information about "Obama's 'Secret Mistress,'" a "weird" Social Security "trick," the Illuminati, and Fort Knox being "empty."

    Among the shadiest sponsored emails from Gingrich are a series of missives touting claims that “cancer was cured back in 1925” and “the actual cure” for cancer can be found by ultimately subscribing to a newsletter for $74. The emails are from Health Revelations and Health Sciences Institute (HSI), which are both owned by NewMarket Health, LLC, a subsidiary of Agora, Inc.

    The people behind the Gingrich-sent emails have been criticized as pulling off “an unbelievable, immoral con job,” skirting “the line between spammy and scammy,” and using people’s “faith as a way to sell them bullshit ‘miracle’ cancer cures and nutritional supplements.”

    Read the full post here: Trump VP Contender Newt Gingrich Profited From Sending Cancer “Cure” Emails.

    Read Media Matters’ 2014 post: The Illuminati, "Obama's 'Secret Mistress,'" And Cancer "Cures": CNN's Gingrich Has A Bizarre Email List

    Gingrich’s Ethical Quagmire

    In 1997, the House ethics committee voted 7 to 1 recommending that Gingrich “face an unprecedented reprimand from his colleagues and pay $300,000 in additional sanctions after concluding that his use of tax-deductible money for political purposes and inaccurate information supplied to investigators represented ‘intentional or . . . reckless’ disregard of House rules.” The full House later voted (by an overwhelming 395 to 28 margin) that Gingrich should pay the fine and be officially reprimanded.

    The Washington Post reported at the time, “The ethics case and its resolution leave Gingrich with little leeway for future personal controversies, House Republicans said.” Gingrich eventually resigned after the 1998 midterm elections, but his ethical problems didn’t end when he left office.

    Gingrich repeatedly used his Fox News contributor job to criticize cap and trade regulations and carbon pricing in 2010. However, Gingrich political organization received $350,000 in donations from major fossil fuel companies during the same period.

    Gingrich also used his Fox News position to boost the work and profile of the Center for Health Transformation, his for-profit organization. In one instance, Fox News hosted Gingrich and the CEO of a health care company which paid CHT to be a member. However, Fox News did not disclose the financial connection.

    During his hosting Crossfire stint, Gingrich violated the standards CNN had set out for him by discussing candidates that had received money from his political action committee without disclosing that fact. After criticism from Media Matters, CNN responded by loosening its standards. The move drew widespread criticism, including from CNN media reporter Brian Stelter.

    More recently, Gingrich wrote a column for the Wall Street Journal that attacked the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and promoted a poll from the U.S. Consumer Coalition without disclosing that the anti-CFPB group was paying him as an adviser. The Journal eventually updated the column noting Gingrich’s ties.

    He was later called out for his shady financial ties to groups opposing the CFPB while testifying during a House hearing.

  • Al Jazeera America Highlights GOP Campaign To Gut Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

    Republicans Using Threat Of Looming Government Shutdown To Push Defunding Of CFPB

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Al Jazeera America highlighted attempts by Republican members of Congress to use an omnibus spending bill meant to avert a government shutdown as a means of defunding a watchdog government agency dedicated to protecting consumers from fraudulent and predatory lending.

    Host John Seigenthaler and correspondent Libby Casey discussed congressional Republican attempts to use spending legislation intended to avoid a federal government shutdown on December 11 as a means of gutting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). As Casey reported, Democrats are defending the organization's role in protecting American consumers, and support a spending resolution that does not include so-called "policy riders." From the December 7 edition of Al Jazeera America's News:

    Later in the segment, Seigenthaler was joined by consumer advocate Alexis Goldstein to discuss the important role CFPB plays as "the only federal regulator that is tasked with protecting consumers from financial abuse":

    Conservative politicians are not alone in their attacks on the CFPB. The editorial board of The Wall Street Journal recently attacked what it called an "outrageous regulatory campaign" by the agency which seeks to curb a widespread practice wherein some consumers are charged higher interest rates or assessed extra fees when purchasing automobiles based on their race.

  • WSJ: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Is A "Bureaucratic Rogue"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In a March 16 editorial, The Wall Street Journal attacked the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau -- created as part of financial reform legislation in 2010 -- calling it a "bureaucratic rogue" and stating, "We'd like to see Congress kill the agency entirely."

    From the editorial:

    A House subcommittee will hold an "oversight" hearing today on the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the über-regulator that will soon have jurisdiction over most of the country's credit-making institutions. We put "oversight" in quotes because Congress has little say over either the new bureau or its unofficial czar, Elizabeth Warren.

    This unprecedented lack of accountability is by Ms. Warren's design. The bureau was the Harvard professor's idea, and she lobbied the Obama Administration and Congress to make it part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform. That law calls it an "independent bureau," akin to an independent agency like the Securities and Exchange Commission. But that's deceptive. Unlike other agencies, it isn't subject to annual Congressional appropriations.


    This is no way to run a government, especially not one that Madison envisioned. The consumer bureau is essentially a bureaucratic rogue. We'd like to see Congress kill the agency entirely. But at the very least Congress should remove it from the Fed, make it part of the Treasury and subject it to annual appropriations. No one elected--or even nominated--Elizabeth Warren.