- - Friday, July 18, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Four years ago, the big-government liberals got the agency of their dreams, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It was the brainchild of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who was a Harvard law professor in real life and a Cherokee Indian in her dreams before she was elected to the U.S. Senate. There she beats the drums for the bureau to serve as a “cop on the beat” to protect consumers from undisciplined capitalism. The bureau is mired in undisciplined corruption.

Created through the passage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street regulation act, the bureau was crafted with uniquely undemocratic features. The bureau pays its bills by drawing funds directly from the Federal Reserve, bypassing Congress. It was set up this way to ensure it would operate as a fiefdom free from congressional scrutiny, and it shows.

The bureau’s head, currently Richard Cordray, cannot be fired, no matter how poor his performance. He’s armed with unlimited authority, enabling him to splurge on luxuries. He spent $216 million redecorating the bureau’s headquarters with such amenities as a two-story waterfall and a glass staircase. The “consumer protection” bureau is now worth more per square foot than the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas or the opulent Burj Khalifa in Dubai, where a guest can sleep in a room designed by Giorgio Armani for $7,000 per night (if he can sleep at all after paying $7,000 for a place to sleep).

Mr. Cordray hired 1,200 employees who got right to work setting up a system to extract credit card and mortgage transaction data from the nation’s major financial firms. This information was added to an enormous database enabling the government to snoop through just about any good or service charged to a credit card.

Information is power. IRS agents have access to sensitive tax information, and leaked it to left-wing websites to undermine Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2012. Imagine the fun rogues could have when they find out from charge slips how much Rick Perry spends on barbecue and Big Gulps or that Rand Paul once dined at Chick-fil-A. Mr. Cordray conceded that the information in his database is not secure. It should never have been put together in the first place.

When Mr. Cordray wants advice on how to regulate credit unions, he turns to his Credit Union Advisory Council, to which he has appointed pals such as Ron Ehrenreich, once a candidate for vice president of the United States on the Socialist Party ticket.

The bureau, however, is no worker’s paradise. Angela Martin, an agency attorney, testified earlier this year to the “pervasive culture of retaliation and intimidation that silences employees and chills the workforce from exposing wrongdoing.”

Far from serving consumers, the bureau caters to the career aspirations of top employees who have used the revolving door to cash in after a short stint at the agency. More than a dozen employees have left the agency to become lobbyists, analysts for big banks, or to start their own firms to offer financial services regulated by the bureau.

By its fourth anniversary, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has become everything its critics said it would — a renegade bureaucracy with no accountability. Before it turns five, the Congress should figure out a way to give the American people a real birthday present and save $600 million a year by eliminating a particularly intrusive and unnecessary agency.

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