How the Battle for the Bureau Was Won

By Micheal Fryzel


For individuals who thrive on the politics of Washington DC, the recent drama over the selection of a nominee for the Director of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (BCFP)  was a lesson in pure political power.

Since the resignation of Richard Cordray to run for governor of Ohio, former congressman and current director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Mick Mulvaney has run the BCFP as acting director. Under a unique provision in the law, the president was allowed to appoint a Senate-confirmed individual currently serving in some capacity to also serve as a temporary head of an agency for a specific period of time. 

Mulvaney was the choice and has made sweeping changes at the BCFP and moved the president’s agenda of fewer regulations and less government interference in the financial services sector.  The time period allowed for Mulvaney to serve as Acting Director would end on June 22 unless someone is nominated for permanent director. Such a nomination would allow him to continue to serve during the nominee’s confirmation process. 

From the time Mulvaney assumed the BCFP position there has been wide speculation about who the president might nominate for permanent director. For months Mark McWatters, chairman of the National Credit Union Administration, was the front-runner. With a strong financial background and the support of his good friend and fellow Texan, Congressman Jeb Hensarling, the powerful chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, most believed McWatters was a sure thing.

Along the way other names popped up. Todd Zwicki, a law professor at George Mason University, and Ohio State Representative Jonathan Dever were mentioned. Recently, retiring Congressman Darrel Issa was touted as a possibility. His name surprised many as he has criticized the president’s policies on occasion. It was rumored, however, that Issa had the support of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, also a powerful insider and close to the president. 

Four People in the Running

Four individuals were in contention for the prize. Two had the backing of prominent federal officials and two had their names mentioned. With the deadline for a choice to be named fast approaching, it appeared it could be either McWatters or Issa.  The betting began as to who it would be and which powerhouse, Hensarling or Mnuchin, could put their choice over the top.

And then it happened. The real powerhouse stepped up. The person who has been in the forefront in implementing the president’s financial reform policies and who maintains a 24/7 work schedule. Holding two jobs and speculated to be the next chief of staff to President Trump when and if General Kelly steps down, the one and only, Mick Mulvaney.

Sensing the difficulty of his fellow colleagues to get their choices across the finish line, Mulvaney moved in and in a matter of days had his choice vetted, interviewed by the president and officially nominated to be BCFP director. Masterful!

Kathy Kraninger, an attorney and current associate director at OMB, was Mulvaney’s choice. But to get it done, Mulvaney needed an additional push. His ace in the hole to getting his selection chosen was lining up the support of the Special Assistant to the President for Financial Policy, Andrew Omem.

'The Biggest Coup'

Omem, a veteran Washington operative with years of experience as deputy staff director and chief counsel for the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, as well as counsel to former Ohio Senator George Voinovich, is also said to have the president’s ear.

So, with Mulvaney talking in the president’s right ear and Omem in the left, the deal was sealed. Kraninger was the nominee and Mulvaney and Omem accomplished the biggest coup in recent D.C. folklore. A stroke of genius compliments of team Mulvaney-Omem.

Michael Fryzel is the former chairman of NCUA who is now in private practice in Chicago. 

Section: Standard
Word Count: 750
Copyright Holder:
Copyright Year: 2019
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