It’s time to audit the CFPB

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In a government full of busy agencies, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) may well be the busiest. But don’t fret for its bureaucrats. In between bullying corporations and funneling vast sums of money to left-wing activist groups, the agency has also managed to undertake one of the federal government’s most outrageous office decorating projects to the tune of more than $200 million of taxpayer funds.

If nothing else, one has to marvel at the agency’s time management skills. The CFPB, the ill-conceived agency created under the Dodd Frank Act, was designed to be autonomous from congressional oversight and semi-autonomous from the executive branch, a nonsensical setup in our system of representative government based on a strict system checks and balances.

{mosads}That lack of accountability has led, predictably, to a series of scandals within the CFPB. With no one in Congress able to hold the agency accountable, is it any wonder that the CFPB has abused its power and misused hundreds of millions of dollars, to name only a few of its scandalous deeds? From 2014 to 2017, the CFPB spent $11 million each year to rent office space in a building owned by an Obama fundraiser. Yes, you read that correctly: The rent was nearly $1 million per month.

One of the most alarming aspects of the CFPB’s authority comes straight from the Dodd Frank Act itself. The law specifies that the CFPB may designate a trustee for the funds it collects from businesses as civil penalties. Because there is no effective congressional oversight, that means that CFPB bureaucrats can pick and choose the recipients of their largesse without needing any kind of permission from Congress.

It should come as no surprise that, left to its own devices, CFPB bureaucrats chose trustees who used the funds to line their own pockets and also to prop up left-wing activist groups. The arrangement was ripe for the emergence of conflicts of interest.

The agency, authorized to pick and choose where to spend the penalty funds, had little incentive to perform the role of disinterested enforcer of the rules. Instead, the CFPB felt empowered to shake down major corporations not for actual wrongdoing, but for the simple fact that the agency wanted to steer additional penalty funds to its preferred political causes.

While engaging in these nefarious activities, the CFPB decided it needed a public relations firm. Enter GMMB, a long-established and well-known Democratic media consulting firm. (In fact, the group had previously created campaign ads for both Barack Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns.) The CFPB paid more than $43 million to GMMB to do its public relations and spin a tale of success for the agency.

When President Trump was sworn into office, the CFPB director at the time, Richard Cordray, stayed on in his post, yet another frightening facet of this unaccountable government agency is the fact that a change of power and leadership in Washington had no effect on the agency’s management.

Even more distressing are the hiring practices of the agency. In a shocking piece for the National Review, former CFPB enforcement attorney Ronald Rubin detailed the extent to which the agency engaged in a chilling form of political discrimination, systematically denying employment to conservatives. The agency is, through and through, a hotbed for liberal activists.

Proof of the CFPB’s monolithic political makeup of its employees comes from a review of Federal Election Commission 2016 contribution reports, which documented that 100 percent of the campaign contributions from CFPB employees went exclusively to Democrats. It doesn’t get much more partisan than that. Adding insult to injury, over the past several years, the CFPB has renovated its Washington office, including adding an opulent “four-story glass staircase, two-story waterfall and a sunken garden,” according to earlier reports.

I recently joined other national conservative groups in writing letter to CFPB Acting Director Mick Mulvaney, encouraging him to conduct a full audit of the agency, and to provide those findings to the American people. We, the American taxpayers, have a right to understand how this agency has wasted our hard-earned money on elaborate gardens and staircases, all while ruthlessly over-regulating credit unions and community banks, leading to higher prices for us as consumers.

In a revealing exchange on Capitol Hill back in 2015, Cordray was asked to explain to a House panel how on earth the renovation projects at the CFPB could cost so much money. His retort was, “And why does that matter to you?” The overarching problem with unaccountable and autonomous government agencies is that they can, without batting an eye, ask a congresswoman, “And why does that matter to you?” about hundreds of millions of wasted taxpayer dollars.

It’s time for a thorough audit of the CFPB, because, despite Cordray’s cavalier attitude, what takes place at that agency matters a great deal to the American people.

Jenny Beth Martin is chairman of Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund.

Tags Banking Barack Obama Congress Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Donald Trump Government Hillary Clinton Mick Mulvaney Richard Cordray taxpayers

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