By Ed Mierzwinski, U.S. PIRG
Staff from state PIRGs from Alaska to Massachusetts and points between were part of a Congressional Consumer Lobby Day featuring over 120 consumer advocates today. Our meetings with members of Congress and their staffs focused not only on protecting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s structure and funding from special-interest attack but also holding its current leadership accountable for its failure to protect consumers, including its rollback efforts on a payday lending regulation drafted by its past director and his team and its proposal, this week, to allow debt collectors to intensify their contacts with consumers — including by text, email and cell phone — even those who do not owe debts.
The event was sponsored by U.S. PIRG and the nation’s other leading consumer organizations, including Consumer Reports, Public Citizen and Americans for Financial Reform. It was coordinated by the Consumer Federation of America.
Among the highlights of the event was a briefing for participants this morning by Senator Sherrod Brown (OH), ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee. The Senator is a leading defender of the CFPB, which prior to the current administration, in just five years since its 2011 startup, had recovered over $12 billion for over 31 million consumers victimized by unfair financial practices.
As a joint release from U.S. PIRG and other sponsor organizations explained:
“Holding the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau accountable for delivering on its mission: Under recent leadership, the Bureau has failed to effectively fulfill its core mission, has taken actions that seek to reduce burden on industry at the expense of consumers, and has neglected to enforce the law. The CFPB’s overall enforcement activity is down by 80% from the Bureau’s peak productivity in 2015 and average monetary relief to victims is down by 96% per case. The CFPB must return to its critical role of holding lawbreakers accountable. Congress should also oppose any proposal—either from the Director or Congress—to compromise the CFPB’s independence. Prior to 2018, the CFPB effectively worked for consumers. The agency has a high level of accountability which should be used to ensure that it focuses on its mandate to protect consumers.”
Members of Congress and their staff hear daily and repeatedly from a phalanx of corporate lobbyists based permanently in Washington, DC and also from weekly fly-ins organized by national business associations. Further, corporate influence is enhanced by lobbyist attendance at the innumerable political fundraisers held daily in Washington hotels, restaurants and sports venues. Coincidentally, this morning’s Consumer Lobby Day briefing was held in one of the most famous of those political fundraiser venues, The Monocle Restaurant, just steps from the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Today’s event, however, was non-partisan and demonstrated the growing efforts of the consumer movement to band together and make our grassroots voices heard together on Capitol Hill.