Viewers of last night’s Republican presidential debate were treated to quite a spectacle. Not only did they get to see a presidential debate, but multiple times during the commercial breaks a 30-second ad called “Denied,” by the 501(c)(4) group American Action Network, played and presented an Orwellian vision of the relatively new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
The ad shows the CFPB as a 1984-esque bureaucratic nightmare with human automatons endlessly stamping denied on people’s loan applications, complete with two long red banners in the background with the face of Senator Elizabeth Warren imprinted onto one and the face of CFPB Chairman Richard Cordray imprinted onto the other. A line of people get their loan applications back only to be disappointed that they have been denied their loan.
A voice-over narrates the ad and claims that the CFPB was “designed to interfere with your personal financial decisions” and that the agency “controls your decisions and limits your opportunities.”
So… Can we talk about that ad that just ran during the #GOPDebate where I look like a Commie dictator?
— Elizabeth Warren (@elizabethforma) November 11, 2015
Of course, the reality is that the CFPB was designed to interfere with Wall Street ripping off and defrauding consumers. The CFPB has successfully forced corporations to return more than $10 billion to victimized consumers [PDF]. Apparently, Wall Street and friends are not happy about that.
American Action Network’s media buy for the ad campaign against the CFPB has already reached $500,000 with no end in sight. Former US Senator from Minnesota Norm Coleman leads American Action Network. After losing his re-election campaign to current Senator Al Franken, Coleman became a lobbyist for corporate and foreign interests including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The group Coleman leads is not required to disclose its donors though it’s not hard to guess who might want be underwriting attacks against the CFPB.
American Action Network’s board includes people tied to the financial services industry. As noted by Lee Fang at The Intercept, American Action Network board members Vin Weber, Tom Reynolds, and Barry Jackson work as lobbyists for Navient, a student loan company currently under investigation by the CFPB.
A Navient PR rep denied that the firm gave money to American Action Network.