A listening tour? It worked for Hillary

By

 Updated:

What’s on Elizabeth Warren’s to-do list now that she’s a White House adviser helping to launch the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau?

The Consumer Federation of America suggests a strategy that worked well for another Democratic woman who was a lightning rod for Republican criticism. Warren should plan a “listening tour” to chat with ordinary Americans about their experiences with credit cards, banks, home mortgages, and other financial products, the federation says.

“A listening tour can help to determine the priorities that the bureau should act on as soon as it is up and running,” says the federation’s legislative director, Travis Plunkett. “The CFPB must be prepared to crack down on financial traps and tricks as soon as it opens its doors, including abusive practices by credit card, mortgage, and payday lenders. “

You may remember that a listening tour throughout New York state is what Hillary Rodham Clinton did when she was assembling support to run for a U.S. Senate seat. It worked: the tour helped to sell voters on her credentials as a New Yorker and she was elected to the Senate in 2000.

The CFPB is scheduled to officially open as a full-fledged agency on July 11, 2011, when the White House plans to transfer to it certain powers from other federal regulators. It will have a budget of at least $500 million, which is based on a percentage of the Federal Reserve’s total operating expenses and not dependent on annual Congressional approval.

But it’s unlikely that even a listening tour would placate two senior House Republicans, who are demanding to know which agency is paying Warren’s salary as adviser.

Darrell Issa of California, the top GOP member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Spencer Bachus of Alabama, the ranking member on the Financial Services Committee, sent a letter to the White House complaining about the “unusual arrangement” surrounding Warren’s new job. They want to know what her specific responsibilities will be, which agency will pay her, and where she will file her financial disclosure statement.

And in the Senate, the ranking Republican on the Banking Committee says he wants to “revisit” the Dodd-Frank law. "The consumer agency bothers me the most," said Alabama’s Richard Shelby, who voted against the financial reform bill a few weeks ago. "I thought the creation of it and the way it was created was a mistake."