Consumer advocacy group takes issue with Bipartisan Policy Center's financial reform team

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Public Citizen contends in its report that the BPC formed a team devoted to financial reform in 2012, two years after the Dodd-Frank financial reform law was enacted. They noted that the American Bankers Association and Citigroup were listed as "leadership council" supporters of the BPC in 2012, and not in years prior.

But in a response to the report, BPC said Public Citizen "mischaracterizes and selectively quotes" from the team's work. The group added that it relies primarily on charitable foundations for funding, but "eagerly seeks" support from corporations and individuals as well.

"In our experience, when the consensus positions of our projects roughly align with the interests of other organizations we are credited with fact-based dialogue and broadening the debate. When the conclusions of our work are at odds with the positions of more ideologically-driven organizations, we are criticized for credentialing special interests," the group said in its response. "The merit and integrity of our work rests on the transparency of our consensus-based process, and the diversity of our funding and participants."

The BPC's financial reform group is led by Martin Baily, who served as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under former President Clinton, and Phillip Swagel, who was an assistant secretary for economic policy under former President George W. Bush.

But beyond leaders, Public Citizen argues that the other experts contributing to center's efforts on financial reform come disproportionately from the financial sector or are sympathetic to banking interests. A number of the experts on the Bipartisan Policy Center's panel spent time as federal banking or other financial regulators.

Public Citizen notes that three critics of major Wall Street firms were included on the panel — two professors and the vice president of the National Council of La Raza. But they also found that one of those professors, John Coffee of Columbia, has since resigned. Professor James Cox remains with the project but told Public Citizen that it was difficult to make headway in the group given the lack of common ground.

The report does not suggest that the BPC's financial reform team is doing the bidding of the banking industry but does take issue with an April report issued by the team, which looked at how long it took presidential nominees for financial posts to be confirmed.

The report came amid the ongoing standoff over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Republicans were continuing to block Richard Cordray's nomination to be director of the agency (he was currently leading the bureau via a contentious recess appointment), and were calling for the bureau's structure to be changed so it would be run by a bipartisan commission instead of a lone director.

The BPC report found that the heads of single director agencies took "much longer" to earn conformation than those on commissions. It also found that nominations took longer under President Obama than his immediate predecessor, but also that it took presidents longer to nominate a person for the job than it did for the Senate to confirm them.

While the findings were all based on quantifiable data and made no conclusions about the structure of the CFPB, Public Citizen argued that the findings nonetheless lent support to restructuring the agency as a commission instead of a director, which had been a major priority for the banking industry.

Public Citizen has been a vocal advocate for the CFPB and Cordray. 

The BPC, which bills itself as the only Washington think tank that "actively promotes bipartisanship," was formed in 2007 by former Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker (R-Tenn.), Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), Bob Dole (R-Kan.) and George Mitchell (D-Maine).

This post updated at 4:29pm.