Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and several other Democrats have objected to a recent hire at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau over his past employment.
Warren, along with Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Katie Porter (D-Calif.) raised concerns over Paul Watkins’ previous work for an organization some consider to be anti-LGBTQ.
The Congresswomen sent a letter to CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger questioning Watkins’ ability to fulfill his role “considering the discretion his position has to exempt certain companies from complying with anti-discrimination laws” as assistant director of the Office of Innovation.
“Mr. Watkins’ role at the CFPB gives him wide discretion to exempt companies — or even entire industries — from anti-discrimination laws and given his past work at a homophobic hate group, we are deeply concerned that he will use this power to scrap crucial protections for the LGBTQ consumers,” the lawmakers said. “We therefore ask that you reconsider his employment and his role at the bureau.”
The letter also probed into the vetting process behind the hiring and whether Watkins was recused from any matters involving possible LGBTQ discrimination.
Watkins worked for Alliance Defending Freedom’s Blackstone Legal Fellowship from 2012-2014. ADF is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center over its support for “recriminalizing homosexuality” among other issues. Watkins was not involved in ADF’s advocacy work, the organization said in an email to the American Banker.
Watkins was hired to help lead the CFPB’s Office of Innovation last summer, and a CFPB statement announcing the move made no mention of his time at ADF although it listed his work experience back to 2006.
He is not alone in causing controversy over his pre-CFPB activities. Last year, former CFPB staffer Eric Blankenstein drew ire over old blog posts in which he questioned whether people who use racial slurs are necessarily racists and asserted that most hate crimes are “hoaxes.”
Blankenstine resigned in May, but was recently hired by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, a move to which Warren also objected.