The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by Newt Gingrich attacking the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and promoting the U.S. Consumer Coalition without disclosing that the anti-CFPB group employs him as a paid adviser. The omission is even more egregious since the Journal itself reported Gingrich's hiring last year.
UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal updated its Gingrich op-ed on July 7 by noting Gingrich's financial ties. The online version of the piece now states: "Amplification: Newt 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."
Gingrich's WSJ Op-Ed Attacks Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Promotes U.S. Consumer Coalition
Gingrich In WSJ: CFPB Is “Snooping” In Consumer Data. Gingrich wrote a July 1 Wall Street Journal op-ed attacking the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for collecting and monitoring “information for nearly 600 million personal credit-card accounts on a monthly basis.” Gingrich called it “snooping” and urged Congress to “move urgently to end this mechanism and subject the agency to the annual congressional appropriations”:
CFPB's snooping is about deciding what financial services or products--such as auto loans or payment processors like PayPal--consumers shouldn't be able to choose.
Unfortunately, Congress cannot simply rein in the CFPB through its power of the purse. Thanks to the 2010 Dodd-Frank law, the agency is funded through a fixed percentage of the Federal Reserve budget. Congress must move urgently to end this mechanism and subject the agency to the annual congressional appropriations. One more thing: If the government now needs a warrant to obtain the phone records of suspected terrorists, it should need one to obtain our credit-card statements.
Privacy advocates, this should be your next target. [Wall Street Journal, 7/1/15]
Gingrich Op-Ed Promoted U.S. Consumer Coalition. Gingrich claimed that Americans opposed CFPB's actions, citing a U.S. Consumer Coalition-commissioned poll:
This supposed need for “good data” may not pass muster with most Americans. A June poll conducted by Zogby for the U.S. Consumer Coalition found that only one in five Americans said they believed the CFPB should be allowed to gather credit-card statements without consumers' knowledge. [Wall Street Journal, 7/1/15]
WSJ Didn't Disclose That Gingrich Was Paid To Attack CFPB. The Wall Street Journal made no mention of Gingrich's ties to the U.S. Consumer Coalition (USCC) and that he has been paid to attack the CFPB, even though the paper reported Gingrich's hiring last year. The identification of Gingrich in the piece simply states: "Mr. Gingrich is a former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives." [Wall Street Journal, 7/1/15]
WSJ Editorial Page Editor Paul Gigot Is The Chair Of The Pulitzer Prize Board. Gigot oversees the Wall Street Journal editorial page, which has frequently failed to adhere to basic ethical standards. He was recently named chair of the Pulitzer Prize Board. NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen called news of Gigot's Pulitzer appointment “strange,” noting that the paper's newsroom “often rolls its eyes at the editorial page's evidentiary standards.” [Media Matters, 5/5/15]
Anti-CFPB U.S. Consumer Coalition Hired Gingrich As A “Paid Adviser”
WSJ In July 2014: “Gingrich Is Serving As A Paid Adviser To The U.S. Consumer Coalition.” The Wall Street Journal reported in July 2014 that Gingrich was being paid by USCC and that Gingrich is interested in placing “opinion pieces” for the group:
Mr. Gingrich is serving as a paid adviser to the U.S. Consumer Coalition, a group that launched in March in reaction to the Justice Department's “Operation Choke Point” investigation. The federal probe focuses on whether banks and payment firms are enabling illegal activity, including offshore “payday” lenders, as well as offerings to erase debt and work-from-home schemes.
The group, which doesn't disclose its donors, is seeking to raise $5 million for its campaign.
Mr. Gingrich, who declined to disclose his fee, said he is happy to write opinion pieces and speak out on the issue. Mr. Gingrich spoke at a June 24 event at Morton's Steak House in Washington was billed as a “closed press, confidential luncheon,” about the Choke Point program, according to an invitation viewed by the Wall Street Journal.
Mr. Wise said his group turns to Mr. Gingrich for strategic advice but not for lobbying on the issue.“Just about everyone has been so intimidated by this program that they don't really have a vehicle to speak up, and so our organization is playing that role.” Mr. Wise said. [Wall Street Journal, 7/24/14]
USCC Highlights “Senior Advisor” Gingrich's WSJ Op-Ed. The coalition celebrated the placement of the op-ed on its website and stated that Gingrich is a “US Consumer Coalition Senior Advisor.” It also promoted the piece on its Facebook page twice and posted an image of Gingrich with a quote from the WSJ piece and the identification “USCC Senior Advisor.”
Gingrich's Op-Ed Echoes Recent USCC Release. Gingrich's op-ed was published shortly after the USCC released its Zogby-commissioned poll -- referenced by Gingrich -- on June 18. The op-ed and USCC press release use similar arguments against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Both the release and Gingrich's op-ed tied CFPB to the National Security Agency's electronic surveillance program. And both suggested the same solutions to the alleged problem. The press release stated that “an overwhelming majority of Americans want to see the CFPB subject to congressional oversight through the appropriations process.” Gingrich wrote in his op-ed that “Congress must move urgently to end this mechanism and subject the agency to the annual congressional appropriations.” [Wall Street Journal, 7/1/15; USConsumers.org, 6/18/15]
Mother Jones: USCC “Has Been On A Mission To Bring Down” The CFPB. Mother Jones reporter Patrick Caldwell reported that the coalition has “been on a mission to bring down the bureau--which it has called 'America's most dangerous federal agency'--and other financial regulators” and “is run and staffed entirely by a Virginia public relations firm stuffed with ex-GOP operatives” and funded by anonymous donors. From the piece:
Yet last month, Brian Wise, one of the group's founders, penned an op-ed in the Hill attacking the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the consumer protection agency that came into existence in 2011 thanks to Elizabeth Warren. The CFPB crafts financial rules to protect ordinary consumers--making mortgage applications simple, preventing banks from hiding fees and charges, and cracking down on payday lenders. But since the US Consumer Coalition launched early last year, it has been on a mission to bring down the bureau--which it has called “America's most dangerous federal agency”--and other financial regulators.
Conservative media outlets regularly turn to Wise, who has accused the CFPB of being a spying agency akin to the NSA, for quotes attacking Warren's agency and financial reform from the consumer's perspective, touting him as someone who represents consumer interests. But the US Consumer Coalition--which other consumer groups told me they had never heard of--is run and staffed entirely by a Virginia public relations firm stuffed with ex-GOP operatives. In fact, Wise tells Mother Jones a group of donors--he won't say who--came to him last year and “hired” his firm, Wise Public Affairs, to set up the Consumer Coalition, which shares staff with his firm.
The group's true funders may never be known. As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, the Consumer Coalition is permanently exempt from revealing its donors. [Mother Jones, 2/26/15]