Confirmed Yesterday, Kraninger Can Send Message that Racism Won’t Be Tolerated on Her Watch
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, the U.S. Senate confirmed Kathy Kraninger as Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Today, consumer advocacy organization Allied Progress is calling on Kraninger to send a strong message to her new colleagues that racism will not be tolerated at the Bureau on her watch by firing Eric Blankenstein and reversing the work he and Mick Mulvaney did to undermine the CFPB’s ability to enforce fair-lending laws and protect consumers from discriminatory lending practices. In September, the Washington Post published an explosive report detailing Blankenstein’s history of racist and sexist writing.
“When newly-confirmed CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger enters the building tomorrow morning, the first item on her agenda should be firing Eric Blankenstein. This is her first real test as director. Will she send a strong message to her new colleagues that racist views are not welcome at the Bureau — especially from someone overseeing fair lending enforcement? Then, if she really wants to demonstrate her commitment to fairness and equality, she will reverse the damage Blankenstein and Mick Mulvaney have done to the CFPB’s ability to enforce fair lending laws and protect consumers from discriminatory lending practices,” said Karl Frisch, executive director of Allied Progress.
Despite the first reports on Blankenstein’s racist writing being published two months ago, Kraninger has yet to comment on the issue.
According to a report this month in the Washington Post and subsequent research unearthed by Allied Progress, Eric Blankenstein wrote that calling someone “n—-r” (he actually used the word) didn’t make them a racist, asked “does it matter that someone got beat up because they were black,” claimed that hate crime “hoaxes” are “three times as prevalent as actual hate crimes,” blamed a woman’s right to choose as the reason a pregnant woman was murdered, and lamented that women can “‘f— someone [they] shouldn’t have’” and use abortion to “‘get rid of the problem’” but men can’t. He also likened life-saving stem cell research to the Holocaust.
In his initial response to the controversy, Blankenstein went on the attack, saying in a statement issued by Mulvaney spokesman John Czwartacki, that his critics were only angry because he was “Governing While Conservative.” Then, as news of a “rebellion” and deep “dissent” within the CFPB spread, he changed his tune, blaming the issue on a youthful lapse in judgment. In an email to staff he wrote, “do I regret some of the things I wrote when I was 25…absolutely.” He apologized only for “the tone and framing” of his views – as if there is a better “tone” or “framing” for racism. Last night, the New York Times destroyed Blankenstein’s his latest excuse when it uncovered his 2016 defense of racist birther conspiracy theorists. His request, “Help me understand why questioning the place of President Obama’s birth is racist,” was written on a little known, right-wing message board.
American Banker then reported the CFPB employee union has called on Mulvaney to take “swift and decisive action” against Blankenstein over his writing, which they say shows “he is unfit for any leadership position in the federal government.” This followed news that Senators Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown have called for Blankenstein’s ouster, with Brown taking to the Senate floor and calling on Mulvaney to act. In fact, Senate Democrats sent a letter to Mulvaney demanding he explain the vetting process that led to Blankenstein’s hiring.
Prior to going to work for Mulvaney at the CFPB, Blankenstein made $153,730 as a lawyer for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. He now earns $259,500 overseeing supervision, enforcement and fair lending for the CFPB, amounting to a $100,000 or 68 percent pay raise. [Elliott Hannon, “Consumer Protection Bureau Head Mulvaney Gave His Political Appointees Big Raises Because It’s Only ‘Waste’ if Someone Else Is Spending It,” Slate, 04/05/18]
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