GOP Governors Step Up Effort to Discredit Cordray

Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Richard Cordray (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Republican governors on Tuesday stepped up their efforts to discredit Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray as he approaches the end of his term and possibly considers a bid to be Ohio’s governor.

On Tuesday, the Republican Governors Association filed a Freedom of Information Request with the CFPB requesting documents on whether Cordray, a Democrat, used federal resources to coordinate with Democratic officials in his home state. The organization requested Cordray’s phone logs and schedule since June 1, along with emails sent from bureau email addresses that reference the gubernatorial race.

“Ohioans deserve to know whether Richard Cordray is using his Consumer Financial Protection Bureau office for political gain at the expense of taxpayers,” RGA spokesman Jon Thompson said in a statement.

A July Cleveland.com column that floated the likelihood of Cordray’s candidacy is at the center of the RGA’s information request. But the politically-charged FOIA request is just the latest salvo in the GOP campaign against Cordray.

Earlier this month, Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee put together a report arguing Cordray should be held in contempt of Congress because he didn’t sufficiently comply with a congressional subpoena. These violations constitute grounds for President Donald Trump to fire Cordray, some congressional Republicans have said.

A CFPB spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment. In a statement provided to Morning Consult on Tuesday, Ohio Democratic Party Communications Director Kirstin Alvanitakis dismissed the RGA efforts.

“The Republican Governors Association is clearly running scared of losing the Buckeye State because they keep launching baseless attacks at Ohio Democrats,” Alvanitakis said.

On Aug. 1, the RGA filed a separate but similar FOIA request seeking information into whether Cordray violated the Hatch Act, a law that limits federal officials from engaging in political activity.

The Cleveland.com column said that Cordray could announce his candidacy for governor at a Labor Day picnic in Cincinnati hosted by the AFL-CIO labor confederation.

Under that timeline, Cordray would have limited time to finalize CFPB rules on payday lending and debt collection that have been on the docket before he leaves to run for office in Ohio. Last month, the bureau finalized its rule limiting financial institutions from using mandatory arbitration clauses that bar consumers from pursuing class-action lawsuits in the event of potential corporate misbehavior.

That rule ran into nearly instant opposition from Republicans, who criticized both the substance of the regulation and Cordray’s process for crafting it. The House adopted a resolution to block the arbitration rule using the Congressional Review Act, and the effort is currently pending before the Senate.

Finalizing the proposed rule on payday loans, which would require small-dollar lenders to determine whether prospective borrowers have the ability to pay back loans, would likely face as much GOP resistance as the arbitration rule if it mirrors the proposal. The initial plan, released in June 2016, has been highly controversial, and the CFPB has received hundreds of thousands of stakeholder comments since its announcement.