Democrats demand Mulvaney explain controversial employee’s hiring

A group of Senate Democrats has demanded an explanation from the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about the vetting process for a now-controversial employee.

A group of Senate Democrats has demanded an explanation from the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about the vetting process for a now-controversial employee.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) – ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs – along with 12 Senate Democrats wants Mick Mulvaney to explain how Policy Director Eric Blankenstein was chosen to oversee supervision, enforcement, and fair lending issues.

Eric Blankenstein

Blankenstein has drawn heavy criticism over recent weeks for writings on a blog from 2004. In the posts originally revealed in an investigation by the Washington Post, Blankenstein questions whether people who use racial slurs are necessarily racists and asserts that most hate crimes are “hoaxes.”

A group of CFPB officials, including the head of its employee union, have withdrawn support for Blankenstein in the wake of the revelations.

“Mr. Blankenstein was not hired through the competitive service process like most CFPB employees; he is one of your hand-selected political appointees. Further, you have specifically tasked him with overseeing the CFPB’s fair lending supervision and enforcement work at a time when you have decided to restructure the Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity,” the Senators wrote.  “It is unclear whether his appointment is due to a failure to investigate Mr. Blankenstein’s background prior to his appointment, Mr. Blankenstein withholding information from you and the CFPB, or an informed decision on your part to ignore his public comments.”

Blankenstein was one of several political appointees handpicked by Mulvaney earlier this year rather than hired through a competitive process. In his position, he is responsible for overseeing enforcement of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, among other laws aimed at protecting minorities from financial discrimination.

Joining Brown on the letter are U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.),  Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Cory Booker (D-N.J), Mark Warner (D-Va.).