Wall Street has given an estimated $2.5 million dollars to Rep. Melissa Bean, D-Ill., who is rumored to be a favorite pick to run the newly formed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau should absentee ballots seal her apparent loss to Tea Party challenger Joe Walsh, R. According to records available from the Center for Responsive Politics, the securities and finance industry has been Bean’s top contributor, and the insurance and real estate industries also rank high.
The relationship between Bean and the industry is so cozy that the Huffington Post’s Arthur Delaney has referred to Bean as “Wall Street’s favorite Democrat.” In 2008, she received more money from the Chamber of Commerce than any other member of her party. Moreover, in her 6 years in Congress, she received more money (adjusted for inflation) from these industries than her Republican predecessor, at least during the 16 years he was in office while the Center for Responsive Politics collected the data.
SNL Financial’s R.J. Lehmann reported the possibility on Friday:
Should she fail to pull ahead, and should she earn the CFPB nod, Bean would certainly provide a stark contrast from presumptive nominee Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard University professor widely credited with originating the concept of the consumer bureau. Bean is a conservative Democrat who has favored the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts and is lead sponsor of a bill that would give insurers and insurance brokers the option to choose to be regulated at the state or federal level.
While Bean may be more friendly to big business, it would be difficult for President Obama to give her the nod for two reasons.
First, Obama spent a significant portion of this election cycle maligning Wall Street and the Chamber of Commerce in particular. A Bean appointment would undermine his tough talk.
Second, the Dodd-Frank bill explicitly notes that a Senate-confirmed CFPB director should have the opportunity to create the agency’s structure, a job that is currently being done (illegally, probably) by the unconfirmed Elizabeth Warren. As I’ve written before, Warren’s role undermines that of any new director, particularly one with whom she has such differences as Bean.
Not that Warren is some innocent, either. The Examiner editorialized in October on Warren’s behavior during the period she was overseeing banks:
According to Bloomberg News, even as she was serving as head of the congressional panel overseeing the $700 billion bank bailout this year, Warren took $90,000 to testify in a class-action lawsuit by retailers against several of the major banks whose bailout she was overseeing. She told Bloomberg that she saw no conflict of interest, which speaks volumes about her judgment.
Conflicts of interest will make the selection of a director more difficult, but the agency already faces dents in its credibility because of the administration’s refusal to name a head.