Consumer Agency Steers Millions to Progressive Firm

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau granted $20 million in contracts to Greer, Margolis, Mitchell, Burns — a liberal advocacy firm with close ties to 2016 candidate Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama.

The contract awards were exposed as deputies working for President Donald Trump look for legal ways to remove the bureau’s Obama-appointed director, Richard Cordray.

The Cause of Action Institute, a new watchdog group, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for details on a $14 million contract between the CFPB and GMMB.

In 2016, GMMB received $16 million to publicize the agency’s advice for consumers seeking to learn more about mortgages, student loans, and retirement plans.

The CFPB contracts advertising almost exclusively through GMMB. The CFPB’s advertising budget represents 2.5 percent of its annual budget, a figure that eclipses the Food and Drug Administration’s two percent annual budget. Most federal agencies spend an average of one percent of their budget on advertising.

The GMMB firm received over $40 million from federal government contracts from 2009 to 2017.

Jim Margolis, a senior partner for the GMMB, served as a senior advisor to Obama and also a senior media advisor to the Clinton 2016 presidential campaign.

The Cause of Action Institute, a new watchdog group, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for details on a $14 million contract between the CFPB and GMMB.

The FOIA request sought to discover whether GMMB uses information from its work for the federal government on partisan campaigns. “Given GMMB’s partisan political clients, CoA Institute is concerned about the nature of and safeguards applied to any CFPB information supplied to or received from GMMB,” said Cause of Action Institute president Alfred Lechner.

One of GMMB’s 2016 CFPB contracts covers costs for “independent research on messaging and demographic targeting.”

CFPB offers contracts to GMMB through a full and open bidding process. GMMB’s contracts remain open-ended to provide for additional advertising campaigns.

Cause of Action wants to ensure that American taxpayers were not subsidizing political coordination, Lechner said. “Firms contracted by campaigns should not and cannot be using information garnered by federal agencies to support political causes.”

GMMB responded to a request for comment from Breitbart regarding its relationship with the CFPB: “Our work with CFPB is focused entirely on educating the public about CFPB’s financial tools as part of the agency’s mission. We do not have access to any of CFPB’s consumer data.”

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau itself was the subject of allegations of widespread discrimination against African-American employees and was referred to as the “plantation” by former employees.

“I was a charter member in the intake unit, which, indeed, came to be referred to as the ‘plantation,'”  Kevin Williams, a former employee at the agency, said. “There, I personally witnessed and was the victim of racial discrimination perpetrated by black as well as white managers. The unit was dubbed the ‘plantation,’ because when we started, the majority of black employees were assigned to intake, which was basically data entry.”

In February, a federal appeals court agreed to hear an appeal of an earlier ruling that said the CFPB is unconstitutionality independent from congressional oversight.  The previous ruling declared the CFPB’s organization is unconstitutional, and it eliminated the section in the Dodd-Frank statute saying the CFPB director can only be removed “for cause.” The D.C. Court of Appeals will hear the case on May 24 to decide whether this ruling should stand.

White House officials “want to fire him,” one lobbyist said. “Their legal counsel are looking at every angle.”

Sources say that the administration will examine Cordray’s five-year tenure as director to justify his termination.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NB) stated that Trump must fire Richard Cordray to restore accountability in Washington. He wrote in an op-ed, “Nobody in his right mind thinks the lesson of 2016 was ‘give more power to the elites.’ In a country of 320 million Americans, we don’t have room for any kings. A federal court ruled this unique structure unconstitutional and said its director must be removable by the president. It’s time to fire Richard Cordray.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed a tweet to a GMMB partner. We regret the error.


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