Here we go with the revolving door. The Sunlight Foundation has completed a study of how the US Chamber of Commerce is using former government officials as part of their lobbying team on financial regulation.
According to second quarter lobbying disclosure reports, the Chamber currently employs, directly or through outside lobbying firms, thirty-four lobbyists registered to lobby on financial regulation. Nineteen of those thirty-four are former government officials. Lobbyists with prior work in government are well-suited to quickly get results as they have established relationships with important actors on Capitol Hill and in the Executive Branch.
Sadly, this is standard practice in Washington. But one of these lobbyists caught my eye:
John Michael Gonzalez is one of the nineteen former government officials hired to lobby with the Chamber of Commerce. Up until this year, Gonzalez was the chief of staff to Financial Services Committee member Melissa Bean (D-IL; from the Chicago suburbs -ed.). Bean is currently pushing to remove a provision from the Consumer Financial Protection Act that would allow states to craft stronger consumer protections. The move is backed by national banks and trade groups like the Chamber of Commerce. Bean has received over 40% of her 2009 campaign contributions from the finance, insurance and real estate sector.
Gonzalez works for the lobbying firm Peck, Madigan, Jone, & Stewart Inc. His company bio specifically hightlights his relationship with the Chamber when working for Bean, “Mr. Gonzalez successfully planned and executed a winning re-election strategy, raising $4.3 million and earning the most support of any incumbent from the US Chamber of Commerce.”
Now that’s something to shout from the hills. “She’s made more from the Chamber of Commerce than anyone!”
Bean’s pre-emption amendment would basically nullify tough state regulatory laws against mortgage predators by making the Consumer Financial Protection Agency the ceiling for regulation and not the floor. She’s actually trying to do this in the name of reform by misrepresenting the views of Congressional Oversight Panel head Elizabeth Warren:
In a dear colleague letter signed by six Democrats who have also received large sums of money from Wall Street this year — Rep. Jim Himes ($326,623), Rep. Ed Perlmutter ($123,350), Rep. Jon Adler ($140,717), Rep. Suzanne Kosmas ($103,311) and Rep. Gary Peters ($134,553) — they misrepresent a statement from an academic paper Warren wrote in 2008:
“In an era of interstate banking, uniform regulation of consumer credit products at the federal level may well be more efficient than a litany of consumer protection rules that vary from state to state. The problem is not in the federal preemption; it is in the failure of federal law to offer a suitable alternative to the preempted state law.”
However, Warren has been clear that she supports the legislative approach backed by President Obama that would allow states to regulate banks and has said, when asked by Bean’s office and others, that she opposes Bean’s amendments.
Warren came out with a statement earlier today responding to Bean’s letter saying:
“The CFPA should be able to set basic safety regulations — a floor — and states should be able to go beyond that floor if they choose. The CFPA will play a critical role in rebuilding a secure Middle Class, but no regulator is perfect. It is important that states have the chance to protect their citizens when federal enforcement is inadequate and to serve as a front-line defense against new threats.”
Gonzalez would be barred from lobbying Bean specifically, but could lobby the Financial Services Committee on which she sits. I am seeking comment on all of this from Congresswoman Bean’s office.