Anyone who has been in Washington knows that ultimately personnel is policy – who you hire is just as, if not more, important than – what you hire them to do. The zealousness and conviction of your team will determine whether you can prevail in contentious battles in the public square. Cordray knows this model of staffing works and he is skewing his recruiting so that he gets liked minded partisans, not objective regulators. Emails obtained by AAF shows that when he is needing to staff up his office, he’s not casting a wide net that might inadvertently sweep up a highly qualified conservative who federal civil service rules might require him to hire, but is rather recruiting among his friends in like-minded state AG offices helping him burrow true believers into the agency.
Richard Cordray is well known, having served as Attorney General of Ohio, Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and then as an unsuccessful candidate for the Governor of Ohio. While Cordray presents a mild-mannered good government persona, he weaponized the Obama-era CFPB through a sue and harassment strategy to bring private companies to heel and is assembling a cadre of staff at the Department of Education to bring that same model to bare against career colleges.
AAF’s research shows that Richard Cordray has aggressively staffed his office with partisan ideologues. His hires – while all ideological leftists – tend to split into two camps, first, a reconstitution of his team from the CFPB and a cadre of activists from state Attorneys General offices and outside activist groups.
When brought together into the office, Cordray has assembled an experienced team of political appointees, advocates with ties to left wing groups, and liberal attorneys who know how to use the tools of government and its allies on the left to punish businesses they disfavor.
Putting the Team Back Together – Bring the Controversial Obama Era CFPB Staff Model to FSA
Richard Cordray hiring as Chief Operations Officer at the Federal Student Aid office was announced May 2, 2021; within just a few weeks he made it clear that he was replicating the model he had used at the CFPB during his last stint in Washington. In an email obtained by AAF from the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, Cordray explicitly outlines that he wants to bring his experience from CFPB to FSA commenting:
Dear Attorney General/State Regulator,
In my experience as Ohio Attorney General and later as the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, I saw the importance of state regulation and oversight to identify problems and deliver relief when companies take advantage of people.
We have instituted a similar process for information requests from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and since then we have successfully completed several joint supervisory and oversight exams of our loan servicers and debt collectors.. (emphasis added)
To that end, Cordray built out a team that had all the hallmarks of the highly controversial team at the CFPB.
Staffing Up with Ideological Zealots
In addition to bringing in numerous old CFPB staffers to build out his team, Cordray and others also made a conscious effort to recruit at least six different individuals from the ranks of his external allies including recruiting from outside allied activist groups and agencies such as the Project for Predatory Student Lending, National Consumer Law Center, the Maryland Attorney General’s Office and US PIRG. Full details of the staff brought in from outside groups and agencies is included in the appendix to this report.