U.S. House Financial Services Committee Needs New Leadership

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: July 12, 2017

Jeb Hensarling, Chair of the House Financial Services Committee, at FSOC Hearing, December 8, 2015

Jeb Hensarling, Chair of the House Financial Services Committee

When members of the U.S. House Financial Services Committee question Fed Chair Janet Yellen this morning following her testimony on monetary policy, many Republicans on the panel will be posturing for their money masters who fund their political campaigns rather than asking questions that benefit the average American.

You can tell that there has been a Koch Network-corporate takeover of the House Financial Services Committee by the statement that its Chairman, Jeb Hensarling, plastered on the front page of the Committee’s web site following the heroic actions of the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Richard Cordray, on Monday. Cordray reopened the nation’s courts to millions of Americans who have been the victims of predatory actions by the banks that fund Hensarling’s seat in Congress.

On Monday, Cordray went up against the most powerful players on Wall Street and the entire Big Bank lobby, and issued a final rule that restores the rights of citizens to sue predatory credit card companies and banks as a group in a legal technique known as a class action. Republicans in Congress should have heralded this move as a fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution and one of the very tenets on which this nation was founded.

One of the documents supposedly cherished by Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee is the U.S. Declaration of Independence. That founding document cites the tyranny of King George III and his infringement on access to the courts by citizens as a grievance. The founding fathers wrote that King George III “has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries” and, furthermore, he was “depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury.”

The U.S. Bill of Rights’ Seventh Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the rights of citizens to access the nation’s courts. It reads:

“In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.”

Hensarling didn’t see it that way. He posted a statement to the Committee’s web site that sounded like it had been quickly dashed off by corporate lobbyists. Using Orwellian Reverse-Speak, Hensarling called Cordray’s action “anti-consumer,” said it should be “thoroughly rejected by Congress,” and claimed “the American people voted to drain the D.C. swamp of capricious, unaccountable bureaucrats who wish to control their lives.”

Americans certainly never envisioned that draining the swamp meant putting corporate billionaires and multi-millionaires in charge of the U.S. Treasury, State Department, Commerce Department, Education Department; putting former investment bankers from Goldman Sachs in key posts; and putting Wall Street’s lawyers in charge of Federal financial watchdogs. Donald Trump’s SEC Chair has represented eight of the ten largest Wall Street banks in the past three years. Millions of Americans have awakened to the sad reckoning that draining the swamp actually meant restocking it with more powerful players.

Hensarling has become a corporate mouthpiece because he is a product of America’s broken corporate campaign finance system. Wall Street powerhouse, JPMorgan Chase, is Hensarling’s largest political career donor, followed by another mega bank, Bank of America. Third on the list is the banking industry’s trade group, the American Bankers Association. Goldman Sachs, UBS, and Wells Fargo also rank in Hensarling’s top 20 career donors. Koch Industries, the sprawling international conglomerate that is majority owned by the Koch brothers, Charles and David, also made the list. This data comes from the Center for Responsive Politics which notes that “The organizations themselves did not donate, rather the money came from the organizations’ PACs, their individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals’ immediate families.” (Corporations are not legally allowed to donate directly to campaigns.)  

Increasingly, Congressional hearings chaired by these corporate-financed mouthpieces are productive viewing only to learn who has sold their soul outright and to get an early heads up on what new attack on citizens’ rights is in the works.

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