by Jeff Sovern
During hearings on the CFPB and the Choice Act, I kept hearing critics of the CFPB saying they want to increase its accountability (I haven't started listening to the markups yet, but it's probably a recurring theme there too). In fact, the CFPB is accountable. But assume it isn't for the moment. CFPB critics argue that one way it should be made more accountable is by subjecting it to the congressional appropriations process. While that sounds good in theory, the problem is that the voices of lobbyists are much louder at appropriations committee proceedings than the voices of consumers. Corporate lobbyists have the resources to pay attention to the inside baseball of appropriations while ordinary consumers busy making a living and providing for their families don't. The result of such "accountability" in the past has been that lobbyists urge members of Congress to starve regulators of funds if the regulators don't play ball with the lobbyists–and that in turn leads to regulatory capture. That is exactly what happened with Fannie and Freddie's former regulator, which was a disaster. Critics of the Choice Act have been calling it the Wrong Choice Act, but they could also call it the Accountability to Lobbyists Act, because that's what it would create.