Sometimes you can tell as much about a presidential debate from the TV commercials that air in between segments as from the debate itself.
The American Action Group, a self-proclaimed center-right “action tank,” aired a TV advertisement attacking the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau during the Republican debate Tuesday night. The ad argues that the same agency, which has already returned more than $10.1 billion to 17 million consumers through enforcement actions against banks, is making it harder for Americans to secure loans they need to buy homes and start businesses.
“With the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, those who need help the most are denied,” a narrator intones in a deep, foreboding voice.
As the narrator decries the agency, viewers see government bureaucrats in rows of desks with rubber stamps, robotically denying ordinary Americans' applications for loans. Soviet-like red banners looming in the background of the dungeon-like bureaucratic building feature images of Richard Cordray, director of the CFPB, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who developed the idea for the agency and pushed for its creation.
“Tell Congress to stop the CFPB now, before they deny you,” the narrator concludes.
Warren responded to the ad in a series of tweets shortly after it aired:
The American Action Group is spending $500,000 to air the ad seven times during the debates, according to Politico.
Congress created the CFPB in 2010 as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act. The agency is meant to function as a consumer product safety commission for financial products. It has investigated big banks' student loan operations and payday lenders, among other sectors of the financial industry, for predatory practices.
It is not clear what the American Action Group is basing its claim that the CFPB's policing of financial actors has resulted in the increased denial of home loans for ordinary people on. Construction on new, private homes has risen 12 percent over last year, as of September.
The American Action Group is the 501(c)4, or so-called "social welfare" advocacy nonprofit, for the American Action Forum, a conservative think tank. Former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), now a lobbyist, chairs the group's board, which counts several successful financiers among its members.
The Intercept reported earlier on Thursday that several board members lobby for Navient, a student loan company CFPB is investigating for swindling borrowers, as well as other lenders under the agency's supervision. Navient reached out to HuffPost after publication to say it had no involvement in the ad.
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