This week’s newsletter discusses a wolf in a moderate’s clothing, opposition to healthcare revolvers, and new polling suggesting widespread support for the CFPB.
This newsletter was originally published on our Substack. Read and subscribe here.
Warren Opposes Appointment of Healthcare Revolver by Julian Scoffield:
Senator Elizabeth Warren is taking a stand against the Republican nominee for a public trustee spot on the Board of Trustees for Medicare and Social Security Programs due to his flagrant conflicts of interest.
The nominee, Demetrios Kouzoukas, currently holds a position on the Board of Directors for Clover Health: a for-profit health insurance company that makes said profit off of Medicare Advantage. As a public trustee, Kouzoukas would be in the position to oversee the financial operations of both Medicare and Social Security, a scenario Sen. Warren has rightfully described as an “egregious conflict of interest.”
Kouzoukas is a known revolver. Prior to joining Clover Health, and between public-sector stints as the Principal Associate Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2003-2009), the Director of the Center for Medicare, and the Principal Deputy Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (2017-2021), he also worked at UnitedHealthcare as their General Counsel of the Medicare and Retirement business (2012-2016).
During Kouzoukas’ nomination hearing, after aptly identifying the dissonance in being a public servant with a simultaneous private interest in profiting off of public services, Sen. Warren pressed Kouzoukas to disclose his salary at Clover Health—and he declined. She then urged him to either resign from his Board of Directorship or withdraw his nomination, and he declined yet again. Given that her objections were being ignored, Sen. Warren made clear that she would be voting against Kouzoukas’ confirmation and urged her colleagues to do the same. The advocacy group Social Security Works has made similar calls, and their petition against Kouzoukas’ nomination has over 26,000 signatures. We applaud the work that grassroots organizers and the Warren office have done to protect our vital social programs from further corporate capture, and hope to see the other senators follow suit.
Survey Says Protect Consumers, Not Wall Street by Vishal Shankar:
Republican lawmakers, as I have previously written, have been waging a scorched-earth campaign to destroy the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) since the agency’s inception in 2011. A new survey of voters conducted by bipartisan pollsters Lake Research Partners and Chesapeake Beach Consulting reveals just how unpopular these attacks on the CFPB really are: an overwhelming 82% of voters (including 77% of Republican voters) support the CFPB’s mission and continued existence.
What’s more, strong majorities of Republican voters are supportive of key CFPB policies that have been opposed by Republican members of Congress, including payday lending protections (75% of Republican voters), protections against discriminatory lending (80%), and fair lending for women- and minority-owned small businesses (63%). And when given arguments for and against maintaining the CFPB’s current independent funding structure (Congressional Republicans are strongly “against,” as a stealthy means of defunding the Bureau via weak Congressional appropriations), over twice as many voters support keeping the CFPB’s current independent funding structure than those who support funding it through Congress.
So why, in the face of opposition from their own voters, are GOP legislators trying to cripple the CFPB? As I have said before, follow the money. The many Republican lawmakers who have slammed the CFPB have all taken large campaign donations from big banks, credit reporting agencies, predatory student lenders, and corporate lobby groups like the Chamber of Commerce, all who’ve sought to kill the Bureau to avoid accountability for breaking the law. With the CFPB’s fate currently in limbo pending a high-stakes Supreme Court case, the Lake/Chesapeake survey proves that regardless of how the high court rules, voters overwhelmingly want protections from corporate predators. The next time Congressional Republicans try to claim popular support for their fringe pro-Wall Street agenda, just remember: even their own voters don’t support it.
A Wolf In Moderate’s Clothing by Julian Harden:
As Republicans in the House of Representatives deliberated over the next Speaker, Representative (R-NC) Patrick McHenry was called upon to fill the role in the interim. However, while the clown show over voting in a permanent Speaker continued, many so-called “pragmatic” Democrats were beginning to warm to the idea of fully appointing him to the position. In their eyes, McHenry would have been a welcome, and moderating, counterbalance to the more hardline influences in the Republican Party that have started this Speakership mess in the first place. But that begs the question, is McHenry an actual moderate? One look at his close ties to the crypto industry and questionable voting record would suggest otherwise.
As Speaker of the House, McHenry would have been a gift to the crypto industry (as his once potential successor Tom Emmer would have been too). McHenry has had a longstanding interest in legitimizing cryptocurrency through industry-friendly regulation. Notably, he sponsored the ”McHenry Bill,” which aimed to establish a legal framework for regulating digital assets. If he had assumed the full role of Speaker (or at the very least gained additional powers while acting in the interim), he would have wielded significant influence in shaping the House’s agenda around crypto and other digital assets. In 2022, McHenry, alongside Chair Maxine Waters (D-CA), proposed legislation that would limit the Securities and Exchange Commission’s authority over stablecoins—a longtime industry objective. It is worth noting that while Waters has since reconsidered her support of such industry-friendly policy (unbought politicians learn and adapt to facts!), McHenry has not.
Patrick McHenry’s questionable record also includes attacks on the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB). As my colleague Vishal Shankar highlighted above, when McHenry was in contention for the next House Financial Services Committee chairman position, he criticized the CFPB without disclosing that the top donors to his campaign were the Bank of America and American Business Association. Instead, McHenry accused President Biden of seeking CFPB appointments that encouraged divisiveness and “pander[ed] to members of the far-left.” (we wish)
If his pro-crypto and anti consumer protection policy advocacy wasn’t enough, then a quick glimpse into his voting record on social issues should disavow any one of the notion that McHenry is a “moderate.”
McHenry has a lengthy track record of voting against social causes that impact historically marginalized populations. A more recent example is that he voted against the “George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021” to curb police violence against citizens. But one could go as far back as 2006 to find evidence of McHenry acting on his discriminatory views, when he voted in favor of the Marriage Protection Amendment to define marriage as being between a man and a woman.
While McHenry’s term as interim Speaker ended yesterday with the election of the far-right, election-denying, climate-denying, homophobic extremist Mike Johnson (R-LA), it is abundantly clear that Patrick McHenry’s characterization as a moderate had more to do with the extreme manner of his fellow colleagues than his actual history of governance. Given that another round of spending negotiations to prevent a government shutdown are on the horizon, we may very well return to a Speakerless House in the near future. Should we return to this scenario, Representatives in Congress and reporters alike ought to take caution in claiming individuals to be more moderate than they actually are. Whispered extremism is at least as dangerous to minorities and our democracy as Jim Jordan style rants.
Want more? Check out some of the pieces that we have published or contributed research or thoughts to in the last week: