Watkins Responds to New Allied Progress Report Finding the CFPB Office of Innovation Director May Soon Have Power to Exempt Companies from Anti-Discrimination Laws
WASHINGTON, D.C. — At Tuesday’s congressional hearing on fintech regulation, Paul Watkins, Director of the CFPB’s Office of Innovation, faced tough questions from Congresswoman Katie Porter (D-CA) about Watkin’s past work for an anti-LBGT hate group, which was detailed in a report this week from consumer watchdog group Allied Progress. Watkins acknowledged today that he previously worked as an attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom but claimed he was unsure when it was designated a hate group by the Southern Law Poverty Center for among other things defending “state-sanctioned sterilization of trans people abroad.” Watkins claimed the group’s well-documented history of fighting equality and supporting the recriminalization of homosexuality wasn’t true and asserted he played no role in the group’s advocacy work — he just trained the next generation of activists..
The Allied Progress report, first covered by The Advocate, also details how Watkins could potentially gain the authority to exempt businesses from compliance with anti-discrimination laws under the bureau’s “no-action” letter initiative. Watkins made no apologies today for his work for group with a long history of trying to legalize discrimination against the LGBT community, raising red flags about the Trump CFPB’s commitment to its mission to protect all consumers, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
“Mr. Watkins would have us believe he was totally oblivious and removed from the detestable anti-LGBT causes the ADF was pushing during his two years working as one of their senior attorneys,” said Jeremy Funk, spokesman for Allied Progress. “Did he go to the ‘Donald Trump School of Totally Believable Lies’? If Director Kraninger does not recognize this as a serious conflict of interest for an aide who deals with discrimination issues, the agency has truly lost its way and can’t be counted on to protect all consumers. The homophobic views Mr. Watkins tolerated have no place at the CFPB or anywhere in government. He should be the last person given the power to decide whether businesses have to comply with anti-discrimination laws. Director Kraninger is in a position to ensure that doesn’t happen. If she instead chooses to do nothing – as she did for months after learning of another CFPB aide’s racist past – it would raise an important question: what kind of hate is not condoned within the Trump-Kraninger bureau?”