Cordray announces exit from federal post

UPDATE @ 4:50 p.m. (Nov. 24)

Democrat Rich Cordray sent President Donald Trump a letter, formally resigning his federal job at the end of today, Nov. 24. 

“I am writing to inform you that I am resigning my position as the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau effective at the close of business (midnight) on Friday, November 24, 2017,” Cordray’s letter reads. “It has been one of the great joys of my life to have had the opportunity to serve as the first director of the Consumer Bureau for the past six years.”

This would leave room for Cordray to enter the Ohio governor race in 2018.


Ohio’s crowded field for governor could get more crowded now that Democrat Rich Cordray plans to leave his federal job, sending a strong signal that he is ready to launch another statewide bid.

Cordray, a holdover from the Obama administration, announced Wednesday he is stepping down as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by the end of November.

He would not say whether he plans to run for governor, but his candidacy has long been seen as a strong possibility by political insiders. Cordray is a former Ohio attorney general and Ohio treasurer, and probably the best known among the Democrats in the current field.

His decision to leave his job as a champion for consumers did not seem to sit well with some Democrats. Faith Oltman, a spokeswoman for Dayton Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nan Whaley, said, “Cordray is turning his back on the progress we’ve made and surely emboldening (President Donald) Trump and Republicans in Congress to dismantle this consumer watchdog organization.”

Former Ohio Rep. Connie Pillich, another Democrat in the field, said in a statement: “It’s disheartening and disappointing that my friend, Richard Cordray, would abandon his role of protecting our nation’s consumers by turning over this critical agency to Donald Trump.” She added: “I look forward to seeing Rich on the campaign trail.”

In an email message to his employees on Wednesday, Cordray wrote: “Together we have made a real and lasting difference that has improved people’s lives, notably: $12 billion in relief recovered for nearly 30 million consumers; stronger safeguards against irresponsible mortgage practices that caused the financial crisis and hurt millions of Americans; giving people a voice by handling over 1.3 million complaints that led to problems getting fixed for vast numbers of individuals, and creating new ways to bring financial education to the public so that people can take more control over their economic lives.”

Cordray has led the bureau since 2008 and his term was set to end in July 2018. The bureau, which was created as part of the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul legislation, is loathed by Republicans — and by Trump — who say it is an unaccountable federal agency with too much power.

Ken Blackwell, former Domestic Policy Advisor to the Trump Presidential Transition Team and a former Ohio state treasurer, took a shot at both the bureau and Cordray following the announcement.

“Under his direction, the CFPB has issued thousands of pages of crushing regulations, some of which have irreparably harmed consumers, and crippled American businesses,” Blackwell said. “If Director Cordray decides to run for Governor, which is highly anticipated, the people of Ohio should be wary of his crony behavior and reject his candidacy outright.”

But a Cordray candidacy would instantly bring more attention to the Democratic side of the race, where the candidates are less known than on the Republican side. The Republicans running are Attorney General Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Jon Husted, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci.

The Democrats are Whaley, Pillich, state Sen. Joe Schiavoni, former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton and Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill.

Cordray, 58, by far has the most statewide experience, running for statewide office five times and winning twice. And his ties to former President Obama and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who helped establish the consumer bureau, could help him in the mad dash to raise some $20 million needed to run a credible gubernatorial campaign.

Kyle Kondik, author of The Bellwether: Why Ohio Picks the President, said Cordray will need a strong campaign launch if he wants to clear or reduce the field in the Democratic primary.

“I don’t know if Cordray is strong enough to force people out of the race, but maybe he gets some high profile endorsements off the bat, like Elizabeth Warren or even maybe Barack Obama,” said Kondik, who worked for Cordray in the Ohio Attorney General’s office in 2009 and 2010.

Related: Hero to some, Ohio’s Rich Cordray under fire from GOP, banksA Cordray candidacy wouldn’t be a slam-dunk. He has been gone from the Ohio political scene for several years, and his last statewide race ended in defeat when he lost the attorney general’s race to DeWine in 2010.

As state treasurer in 2008, Cordray also hired Amer Ahmad into a high-level position. After Cordray moved to the attorney general’s office, Ahmad remained at the state treasury, where he pulled off the biggest bribery and kickback scheme in Ohio treasury history.

Ahmad is currently in prison.

Cordray, who lives in suburban Columbus, does have a lengthy resume. In addition to his current post and his elected stints as attorney general and treasurer, he was a five-time Jeopardy! champion, an intern for John Glenn, a law clerk for Judge Robert Bork and U.S. Supreme Court Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy, an Ohio State University law school professor, a state representative and Ohio Solicitor General.

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said Wednesday, “We’re committed to an open primary process, and any candidate who wants to participate in our sanctioned debates and forums will need to go through the same vetting process that all other statewide candidates have gone through.”

In discussing Cordray, Jane Timken, chairwoman of the Ohio Republican Party, brought out a label that echoes from last year’s presidential campaign.

“After misleading Congress and Ohioans about his intentions for months, Crooked Richard Cordray has quit his bureaucratic dream job, as head of a structurally unconstitutional and unaccountable government agency, to run for governor,” Timken said. “Ohio voters know a swamp creature when they see one, and just like Hillary, Crooked Cordray can’t be trusted.”

At a news conference on Capitol Hill Wednesday afternoon, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who designed the bureau and recruited Cordray seven years ago to help set it up, vigorously defended him, saying “he has stayed for seven years and devoted his life to making this agency work on behalf of the American people. I feel nothing but gratitude to Rich.”

She added: “Rich has dedicated much of his life to protecting consumers and holding big companies accountable. Rich has a record he should be proud of.”

Washington Bureau staff writers Jack Torry and Jessica Wehrman contributed to this report.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Politics

Russia investigation: Special counsel Mueller subpoenas Trump Organization
Russia investigation: Special counsel Mueller subpoenas Trump Organization

  Special counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed the Trump Organization for documents as part of his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and its possible ties to President Donald Trump and his associates, according to multiple reports. The subpoena is the first directly connected to one of Trump’s businesses...
Secretary of state, CIA director nominees face probable backlash in Senate
Secretary of state, CIA director nominees face probable backlash in Senate

The confirmation of President Donald Trump's picks for secretary of state and CIA director is likely to be hampered but not stymied by a mostly partisan backlash to their records in the administration and the decision that led to their nominations - the termination of Rex Tillerson for being one of the few Cabinet members, Democrats argued Tuesday...
Facebook, Twitter, Google CEOs face calls to testify to Congress
Facebook, Twitter, Google CEOs face calls to testify to Congress

Social media giants that have acknowledged Russians exploited their platforms ahead of the 2016 election face renewed bipartisan demands to explain to Congress what they're doing to counter abuse of their networks ahead of this year's congressional midterms.  Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee...
We looked at almost 100 leaders who tried Xi Jinping-style power grabs. Here’s how they turned out.
We looked at almost 100 leaders who tried Xi Jinping-style power grabs. Here’s how they turned out.

Xi Jinping plays the long game.  The 64-year-old Chinese president is only half finished with what should have been a 10-year term, but he's already tossed term limits aside, and with them the rules and norms that have governed China's leadership since 1982.  The National People's Congress made it official last weekend, passing a set of constitutional...
No, Conor Lamb didn’t run as ‘Republican-lite’
No, Conor Lamb didn’t run as ‘Republican-lite’

On Wednesday morning, I returned from Pennsylvania to an entirely different universe: the sidewalk outside the House GOP's weekly meeting. One by one, Republicans in both safe seats and swing seats explained that the apparent defeat of their candidate in the 18th Congressional District — an area Donald Trump had carried by 20 points in 2016 &mdash...
More Stories