Richard Cordray, the controversial head of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB), responded Sunday to claims he has his eye on running for Ohio governor, saying he is focused on “making sure people are treated fairly” in the marketplace.
“What I feel is that we need an independent consumer watchdog,” Cordray told CBS News. “You have regular people who have problems with big financial companies. How do they get relief? And you need somebody who’s gonna stand on their side and level the playing field for them.”
The CFPB was set up as part of the Dodd-Frank reform package and was proposed by left-wing firebrand Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Cordray has been the target of Republican lawmakers in particular, who have opposed the CFPB since its inception and have accused Cordray of acting unlawfully and running a “rogue federal agency.”
“For conducting unlawful activities, abusing his authority and denying market participants due process, Richard Cordray should be dismissed by our President,” said Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) in April. “Today, Mr. Cordray and his CFPB don’t just act as a cop on the beat, they act as legislator, prosecutor, judge and jury all rolled into one.”
The White House was believed to be considering removing Cordray, but he is still in office and is infuriating Republicans by rumors he is planning to run in the Ohio gubernatorial race when his term is up next year.
Recent meetings with Democratic lawmakers and far-left activist groups, including representatives from Americans for Financial Reform, John Podesta’s Center for American Progress, and the National Council of La Raza are likely to stoke such rumors.
In particular, some of these meetings have focused on a rule that would impose a number of restrictions, including a requirement that payday lenders determine whether borrowers can afford to pay back their loans. Opponents say this would wipe out the industry and leave many Americans without access to credit. Reports that the CFPB is trying to rush the rule through before Cordray leaves office have also angered Republicans.
The alleged political activities, including reports that Cordray indirectly contacted a potential primary rival to secure his commitment not to run, have led Hensarling to ask the Office of Special Counsel to investigate whether Cordray has violated the Hatch Act — which prohibits federal bureaucrats from engaging in political activity.
Hensarling, who is also promoting a bill that would roll back the CFPB’s powers, told CBS that “We now have one unelected, one unaccountable individual who essentially gets to determine what mortgages we have, what credit cards we have, bank loans we get.”
“You have law that is gray as opposed to black and white what happens is, as one banker told me, ‘I’m just hunkering down in a foxhole and I’m not lending money because I am afraid of what the CFPB may do,'” Hensarling said.
But despite the multitude of reports about Cordray’s political ambitions, he says he is committed to the job.
“Making sure people are treated fairly in the marketplace,” Cordray told CBS News. “That somebody stands on their side to see that that happens. That’s our job. And we’re gonna keep focusing on it.”
Adam Shaw is a Breitbart News politics reporter based in New York. Follow Adam on Twitter: @AdamShawNY.