-- by Lee Fang
The Center for Media and Democracy is re-posting this article from Lee Fang at Think Progress as part of our effort to track right-wing opposition to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau through our BanksterUSA project. The original can be found here. For context on these new revelations, please read this news story from May 24.
Last week, ThinkProgress revealed that Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) hired Peter Haller, a former Goldman Sachs vice president, as one of his top aides. Haller, who adopted his mother's maiden name in 2008 and had escaped public scrutiny until now, coordinated an Oversight Committee letter to regulators demanding that they justify new Dodd-Frank rules impacting investment banks like his old employer, Goldman Sachs. After publication of our story, the Project on Government Oversight discovered more of Haller's Oversight Committee letters, again on issues directly related to Goldman Sachs.
ThinkProgress has now obtained more evidence that suggests that Haller's employment under Issa is more akin to a bank lobbyist than a public servant entrusted with protecting the public interest. In May, GOP members on the Oversight Committee invited Professor Elizabeth Warren, then a special advisor working on the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to testify about the new agency. The hearing quickly became a media sideshow, with Republican lawmakers trying to trip Warren up and embarrass her. One congressman, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), became infamous overnight for berating Warren and accusing her of lying about her scheduling with the committee. It turns out that Haller, again carrying water for financial corporations afraid of new regulations, was behind the scheduling controversy at the heart of the McHenry confrontation with Warren.
According to e-mail correspondence obtained from Judicial Watch, Haller oversaw the scheduling of the Warren testimony. According to Flavio Cumpiano, a congressional liaison for the CFPB, Haller reportedly changed the time of the hearing at the last minute, then misled Warren staffers by promising to end the testimony by 2:15 pm that day. In the emails, Haller denies ever agreeing to 2:15. But, Haller had been informed that Warren could not go beyond 2:15:
– Monday May 23 8:43pm: Haller writes to Flavio Cumpiano, a congressional liaison for the CFPB, the night before the hearing to make "an [sic] late change to 1:00." At 11:00pm, Cumpiano responds to figure out a better time.
– Tuesday May 24 morning: After Haller and Cumpiano go back and forth with e-mails about which time would be best, a phone conversation occurs between Haller and Adewale Adeyemo, chief of staff to the CFBP implementation team, and a schedule is set. At 10:11am, Cumpiano e-mails Haller: "Hi Peter. I understand from Wally -copied here- that you both spoke and she'll [Elizabeth Warren] testify from 1:15pm to 2:15pm. Thanks, Flavio."
– Tuesday May 24 afternoon around 2:15pm: McHenry, with Haller sitting behind him, accuses Warren of trying to evading the committee by trying to leave at the agreed-upon time. When Warren noted that McHenry's aides had agreed upon the schedule, McHenry elicited audible gasps in the room by declaring Warren a liar: "You're making this up, Ms. Warren. This is not the case."
– Tuesday May 24 2:32pm: As Warren leaves the hearing room, Haller fires off an e-mail to Cumpiano demanding that he "please confirm" that he did not "confirm the end time." Later that afternoon, Cumpiano responds by reiterating that Haller had confirmed the 2:15pm end time, and had even told Adeyemo that he would inform McHenry of the schedule during the call.
McHenry seemed to have a mission that day. As Crooks and Liars blogger Karoli pointed out, before the hearing started, McHenry appeared on CNBC and accused Warren of lying about the nature of her advice to the consumer protection agency. The scheduling controversy at the hearing appears to be little more than a cover for McHenry to smear Warren as untrustworthy.
Haller, who is visible to the C-SPAN camera in a seat near McHenry, shakes his head at Warren when she said "we had an agreement for the time this hearing" (time stamp 00:55). Watch here:
ThinkProgress reached out to Haller for comment on this story, but the Oversight Committee refused our request.
Goldman Sachs has spent millions this year lobbying on new Dodd-Frank mandates, and has sent its representatives to private meetings about the implementation of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rules.
The Warren incident provides more fodder to critics who say Issa has turned his Oversight Committee over to lobbyists. In comments to the press, Issa's spokeswoman did not deny that Haller worked previously Goldman Sachs or that he covers financial issues for the committee.
Public Citizen's Bart Naylor commented on ThinkProgress' story last Friday, noting "Chairman Issa must take every step to ensure that his investigations are unclouded by any appearance of conflict. The next time Chairman Issa sends a scolding letter to regulators and asks that they contact Peter Haller, he should disclose that Mr. Haller worked at Goldman Sachs."