Richard Cordray (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM)
U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling can ask, and ask, and ask again. But Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has no plans of telling the Texas Republican whether he plans to resign anytime soon to pursue his rumored interest in the Ohio governorship.
Hensarling, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, sent Cordray a letter Monday setting a Wednesday deadline for the CFPB chief to state whether he plans to resign to run for governor before his five-year term expires in July 2018. Cordray, a former attorney general of Ohio, responded Wednesday—“in accordance with [Hensarling’s] stated deadline,” he wrote—but his answer was the same one that has so frustrated Hensarling in the past.
Referring to Hensarling’s inquiry about his “personal political ambitions,” Cordray said the “final question is one you have asked me before—first in a letter dated March 20, 2017, to which I responded, then again in a question for the record after my April 5, 2017, semi-annual report hearing before the committee, to which I also responded.”
“Now,” Cordray continued, “you are asking the same question a third time, and my answer remains the same. You ask whether I intend to serve my full statutory term as the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or whether there is some other specific date on which I plan to resign. At this time, I have no further insights to provide on that subject.”
The correspondence between the CFPB director and Hensarling, a Republican who’s long advocated for restructuring and defanging the agency, comes just days before the Ohio AFL-CIO’s Labor Day picnic in Cincinnati, where Cordray is scheduled to give remarks. The planned appearance has generated speculation about whether Cordray will use the event to launch a gubernatorial bid.
Hensarling’s latest request for clarity on any of Cordray’s political aims came amid reports that the CFPB was rushing to complete a rule on payday loans before his departure. The news reports, Hensarling wrote, “suggest that your personal political ambitions may be informing decisions you are making regarding what is supposed to be a nonpartisan and objective agency rulemaking process governed by the Administrative Procedure Act.”
Cordray replied Wednesday: “I categorically deny that political considerations have informed any aspect of my decisions, orders and communications” relating to the payday rule.
Cordray has led the CFPB since its creation under the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. His departure would open a door for the Trump administration to steer the agency’s enforcement, supervision and rulemaking efforts in a new direction.