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When Mick Mulvaney was moved from the Office of Management and Budget to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau he was apparently sent with a mandate to find some swampland to drain. That didn’t take long at all. While it’s already arousing fury in Senator Elizabeth Warren and her supporters, Mulvaney has identified a notorious slush fund at the CFPB which has been channeling federal dollars to causes sympathetic to Democrats. Now the spigot has been closed on that cash flow. (Paul Bedard, reporting for the Washington Examiner)
An educational “slush fund” used by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has come under the “strictest review” by acting director Mick Mulvaney amid concerns the Obama-era agency has been doling out cash only to Democratic cronies.
Mulvaney, President Trump’s budget chief who has been temporarily installed at the agency the president once promised to kill, is reviewing all spending by the troubled consumer watchdog created to protect Americans from big financial companies.
“All of this is under strictest review. While we get our arms around it, the director is personally approving any payment out of these funds to ensure that they are going to actual victims,” an official said. Mulvaney replaced former President Barack Obama’s director, Richard Cordray, who resigned in November.
This particular scheme, which has not been subject to the same scrutiny as operations in other agencies, has been handing down fines to financial institutions and then generously redistributing the money, supposedly to provide aid to victims and promote “educational” programs. But there’s been a rather blatant bias in terms of who the CFPB feels is deserving of such help.
The Examiner article points to previous work done by Cause of Action Institute, who identified a $14 million CFPB contract with GMMB Inc. This media consulting outfit produced political ads for both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Further, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which previously dubbed the program a “slush fund”, found that CFPB has been awarding cash to liberal, Democratic groups 593 times for every one Republican or conservative recipient. You simply don’t get that sort of disparity by accident.
Originally, Elizabeth Warren had argued that the CFPB needed to be independent of normal congressional oversight so the agency could operate outside the boundaries of political influence. This was supposed to be a completely transparent operation which would expose wrongdoing in the financial sector as well as their collaborators in Washington. Instead, as Paul Sperry of the New York Post noted last year, it was still a mass of dark money which exclusively benefitted Warren’s party. As an example, he pointed to the buckets of cash funding the legal battle waged by Democrats to stop Mulvaney from taking over at the agency. Where did all that money come from? They didn’t want to say.
So who’s funding this extraordinary legal battle with the White House? English’s lead attorney, Deepak Gupta, refuses to say.
“I’m not going to describe [the financial] arrangements,” he said Tuesday in a tense exchange with CNBC anchor Michelle Caruso-Cabrera. “I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to be talking about that on TV right now.”
All he’d disclose is that they had set up a “structure” similar to a “legal defense fund” to cover his fees, but he wouldn’t name any of the donors contributing to the fund.
For an organization which was set up to reign in fiscal impropriety, there certainly seems to be a lot of, er… fiscal impropriety going on at the CFPB. And that extends to the agency’s backers, pretty much exclusively from the Democratic Party. The CFPB was supposed to be a watchdog, but now that sunlight is streaming into their offices, we probably should have been asking the age-old question… who was watching the watchers?