In our time of powerful governance and weak congress, some of the most momentous government officials are the little-known heads of federal letter soup. One of them is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which was designed as a separate fiefdom isolated from accountability. It is therefore worrying that President Biden’s candidate to head the agency would like the managing state to expand its reach to include political speeches.
Mr Biden sent the nomination to the Senate last week of Rohit Chopra, a protégé and commissioner of Elizabeth Warren on the Federal Trade Commission. Senators who want to understand Mr. Chopra’s thinking about the role of regulators in American democracy might embark on a Report he co-authored in 2018 for the Roosevelt Institute. It envisions an inexplicable tsar of “corruption” in Washington who writes rules, fines, and exercises his will against politicians, think tanks, and nonprofits.
If that sounds constitutionally suspicious, then it comes with progressive territory. The Supreme Court ruled last year that the design of the CFPB was unconstitutional because its director, who is appointed by the President for a five-year term, could only be removed for good cause.
The court said giving a regulator that much power “clashes with the constitutional structure”. But that is nothing compared to Mr Chopra’s proposed Public Integrity Protection Agency (PIPA), where the director would be in office for up to 10 years, “subject to deportation proceedings similar to that of a federal judge” – that is practically inviolable to the elected Branches.
In contrast to the CFPB, which regulates trade and credit, the even less accountable PIPA of Mr. Chopra would regulate core political activities. The report proposes new advocacy restrictions that prohibit the use of think tanks and other nonprofits to advance the economic interests of their benefactors through political research.