Thursday, July 21, 2011

Richard Cordray: Misconduct & alleged misconduct of the CFPB nominee

Former Attorney General and Treasurer of Ohio, Richard Cordray, has been nominated by President Obama to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The following is a brief rundown of the alleged misconduct that Mr. Cordray engaged in while serving in public office.

1) From the Dayton Daily News - October 5, 2008:
Less than two weeks after Democrat Richard Cordray was sworn in as Ohio treasurer, the stepdaughter of the Columbus-based salesman for Wachovia Securities donated $10,000 — the maximum allowed by law — to Cordray's campaign.

Wachovia soon grabbed 37.5 percent of the state's bond trading business, a big leap for the St. Louis-based company, which had done a little less than 1 percent of the bond trading for the treasurer's office in the prior six years under Republicans Joe Deters and Jeanette Bradley...

Lindsey Kuty, 25, the stepdaughter of Wachovia's Montford S. Will, contributed the $10,000 to Cordray's campaign. When asked if the money came from his stepdaughter or from him, Will responded, "It came from her mother. It didn't come from me."

After the Dayton Daily News informed Cordray of the contribution, Cordray said his campaign would refund the $10,000 to avoid any appearance issues. He noted that he did not know Kuty or know anything about her contribution...

The Ohio Secretary of State's Office said the scenario may be a problem on two fronts. First, it's illegal to make campaign contributions in someone else's name. Second, state contractors face stringent limits on how much they can give: the maximum had been $1,000 but a law change in April 2007 set the bar at $2,000 from a vendor or their spouse within a 24-month period...

Lee, Will, Will's son and Will's business partner gave Cordray's campaign for Franklin County treasurer a combined $19,500 between 2002 and 2004...

Ohio State University law professor Steve Huefner, an expert on election law and campaign finance, said giving in someone else's name "would completely circumvent the contribution limits" and the public wouldn't be able to figure out who is buying access and influence...

When asked if [Wachovia receiving 37.5 percent of the state's bond trading business] was an unusually high concentration for one firm, STRS Ohio Investments Director Steve Mitchell replied, "I'd say so for that firm..."
In May of 2009, the Ohio Elections Commission doled out a $95,000 fine to Montford S. Will, who finally admitted that he had violated Ohio law by cloaking the source of $121,000 in contributions since 2006 by reimbursing his wife and two adult stepchildren for donations to candidates and political parties, including then-Ohio Treasurer, Richard Cordray.

2) In 2010, two Republican organizations filed an ethics complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission accusing Mr. Cordray - then a Democratic candidate for the office of Attorney General of Ohio - of engaging in potentially illegal actions in relation to campaign finance laws. A third party candidate for the office of AG, Robert Owens, also filed a complaint against Cordray making the same accusation.

The complaint: Cordray transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds to county and state Democratic Party organizations to circumvent restrictions on carrying over cash from the previous election cycle [from his previous campaign]. The party organizations then donated similar amounts to Cordray's [2010] campaign.

One news media outlet opined that Cordray's actions might have comported with the letter of the law, but certainly did not comport with the spirit of the law.

Republicans later withdrew their ethics complaints against Cordray. Ohio Democrats also withdrew a similar complaint that they had filed against a Republican candidate who was running for office. Quid pro quo? Or did the Republicans conclude they did not have a sufficiently strong case against Mr. Cordray?

3) While serving as Ohio Attorney General, Mr. Cordray used taxpayer money to pay for the legal defense of three former state employees accused of searching state databases for confidential information on Joe "the Plumber" Wurzelbacher.
It was Cordray's office that defended the three in the lawsuit. Cordray told reporters he is obligated to defend the employees because the lawsuit claims the illegal actions were done in the course of their work for the state.

Critics charged that according to state law, Cordray didn't need to use government funds in the case or defend the three since the lawsuit involved activities that were outside the scope of official state employment.

Further, state funds were not meant to be used to defend public workers who acted with malicious purpose, in bad faith or in a wanton or reckless manner.

Former U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine of Cedarville, Ohio, also a former local prosecutor, told reporters, "These people violated the privacy of an Ohio citizen and they did it, it would appear, to advance a partisan political campaign, and I think taxpayers will be shocked to find that their tax dollars are going to defend them."

Delaware County Prosecutor David Yost added, "It's an outrageous use of taxpayer money to defend the invasion of a citizen's privacy."

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