Law­maker, Con­sumer chief spar over ‘po­lit­i­cal ambitions’

The News Herald (Willoughby, OH) - - Local News - By Julie Carr Smyth

COLUM­BUS » A fierce Repub­li­can critic of the Con­sumer Fi­nan­cial Pro­tec­tion Bureau is press­ing the agency’s Demo­cratic chief to an­nounce his in­ten­tions in next year’s race for Ohio gover­nor.

House Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices Com­mit­tee Chair­man Jeb Hen­sar­ling, R-Texas, wrote to Richard Cor­dray on Mon­day urg­ing him to re­veal by Wed­nes­day whether he planned to re­sign as head of the agency. Hen­sar­ling also sought Cor­dray’s “cat­e­gor­i­cal de­nial” that po­lit­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions are in­flu­enc­ing his fed­eral work.

Cor­dray re­sponded in writ­ing Wed­nes­day, say­ing he hasn’t been in­flu­enced by pol­i­tics and telling Hen­sar­ling that he has “no fur­ther in­sights to pro­vide” on the timetable for his de­par­ture. Cor­dray noted Hen­sar­ling has posed the same ques­tion to him three times.

Hen­sar­ling’s lat­est re­quest fol­lowed spec­u­la­tion that Cor­dray, 58, could an­nounce a gu­ber­na­to­rial bid over La­bor Day week­end. He is sched­uled to head­line an Ohio AFL-CIO pic­nic in Cincin­nati on Mon­day.

Many Repub­li­cans strongly op­pose the in­de­pen­dent agency es­tab­lished by Dodd-Frank, the land­mark bank­ing law created af­ter the 2008 eco­nomic cri­sis that was de­signed to pre­vent fu­ture melt­downs. The agency has the power to scru­ti­nize the prac­tices of vir­tu­ally any busi­ness sell­ing fi­nan­cial prod­ucts and ser­vices, such as credit card com­pa­nies, pay­day lenders, mort­gage ser­vicers and debt col­lec­tors.

The GOP, with Hen­sar­ling tak­ing the lead, com­plains that the agency’s rules and ac­tions sti­fle eco­nomic growth. A prime tar­get is Cor­dray, a holdover from Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Some Repub­li­cans have urged Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump to fire Cor­dray, but oth­ers have wa­vered on the strat­egy. Fir­ing him could give Democrats a shot at win­ning Ohio’s gov­er­nor­ship and make the race a ref­er­en­dum on Trump.

Al­ready, eight can­di­dates — four Repub­li­cans and four Democrats — have jumped into the con­test to suc­ceed Repub­li­can Gov. John Ka­sich, who is term-lim­ited.

Hen­sar­ling has seized on me­dia re­ports that Cor­dray is po­si­tion­ing for a gu­ber­na­to­rial run and called into ques­tion his mo­ti­va­tions as con­sumer chief, a po­si­tion that has al­lowed a Demo­crat some con­tin­u­ing pol­icy in­flu­ence in Repub­li­can-con­trolled Wash­ing­ton.

“Th­ese re­ports, which have not been re­but­ted by the bureau, sug­gest that your per­sonal po­lit­i­cal ambitions may be in­form­ing de­ci­sions you are mak­ing re­gard­ing what is sup­posed to be a non­par­ti­san and ob­jec­tive agency rule­mak­ing process gov­erned by the Ad­min­is­tra­tive Pro­ce­dure Act,” Hen­sar­ling wrote.

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