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Gingrich slams consumer protection panel's data collection

Gingrich slams consumer protection panel's data collection
© Mark Wilkins

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said Wednesday that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was a flawed bureaucracy that can't be trusted with personal information.

“It is the perfect case study of the pathology of bureaucracies at the federal level," Gingrich said. He claimed the agency disregards Congress because it's not dependent on appropriations and "is free to do what it wants ... without fear of losing its funding or leadership."

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Gingrich testified at a House Financial Services subcommittee hearing focused on the CFPB's expansive data collection.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found last year that the CFPB ran 12 data collection projects tapping into information from 75 million credit card accounts, 173 million mortgages, 10.7 million consumer credit reports, 5.5 million student loans and between 15 million and 40 million storefront payday loans.

Republicans, long critical of the agency, said its structure and a slew of recent data breaches put American consumers at risk.

The CFPB is collecting data "on a massive scale that rivals the NSA ... but for a much less compelling reason," Gingrich said. “This should bother you no matter which side of the aisle you’re on, or what you think of the committee’s regulations."

"It is absolutely shocking to me the level of regulatory power these agencies have over the American people," added Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah), panning the "casualness" with which lawmakers talk about collecting data. 

Democrats quickly pointed to Gingrich's affiliation with the U.S. Consumer Coalition, an anti-CFPB group, and his 2012 presidential campaign's collection and sale of voter data.

“I know you understand how this place works," said Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.), the committee's top Democrat. “Some of us are very appreciative that Dodd-Frank created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau."

Deepak Gupta, a former CFPB official, said most of the data the agency collected was aggregated. He also criticized the committee for not investigating breaches of financial information.

“It’s creating the kind of oversight and protection we were missing before the financial crisis," Gupta said. “The very existence of this hearing is an example of” public officials ignoring data.