23 October, 2009

Hey, Look! Consumer Protections with Huge Fucking Holes!

That's Congress, watching out for (their own) interests:

The House Financial Services Committee approved a controversial amendment, opposed by Chairman Barney Frank, to exempt auto financing from independent dealers from the oversight of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency. The vote was 47-21, with a large number of Democrats joining with Republicans. I’ll have the full committee breakdowns for you when I get them. The panel did approve the creation of the CFPA by a 39-29 count, ignoring the massive lobbying campaign trying to kill it outright.

The auto dealer exemption is probably the worst amendment in the entire Financial Services Committee markup on regulatory reform. You can make a case for some of the other amendments, and Rep. Frank said on Rachel Maddow’s show last night that the committee will pass the reform bill today that gives Democrats and the Administration “90% of what we wanted.” But this is part of that other 10%. Auto financing is typically the second-largest purchase a family makes, behind housing, and the horror stories of auto loan customers being ripped off are voluminous. The amendment was authored by Rep. John Campbell (R-CA), a former auto dealer who has been ripped by consumer groups for having major conflicts of interests.
The consumer groups, which also include organizations that want election reform, say that Campbell should walk away from his amendment for two reasons. First, because six auto dealerships pay him rent and would benefit from his amendment and he would benefit. And second, that Campbell received $170,000 in campaign contributions from auto dealers since he’s run for Congress.
The groups say Campbell’s personal financial disclosure forms show he received between $600,000 and $6 million in rent last year.
Campbell’s “defense” is that four of the six properties are no longer car dealers, having gone out of business – so two still are, and the amendment will directly shield them from oversight. He also says that the House Ethics Committee approved him authoring the amendment, without giving details. It turns out that Campbell recused himself from a vote last year on bailing out the automakers, based on a conflict of interest, but in this case, writing the amendment exempting them from oversight is OK with him.
And okay with a rather distressing number of Dems and Cons.  Methinks we need to sit Congress down for a long talk about ethics, public service, and votes.

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