Congressional investigators have requested information on a lucrative, multi-million dollar federal contract awarded to Democratic campaign operatives connected to Hillary Clinton that raises questions of cronyism but also if the purported purpose of the spending is even legal.
The $12.5 million advertising contract to GMMB, Inc., the firm that produced Barack Obama's campaign ads in 2008 and 2012 and is doing so for Hillary Clinton this cycle, drew notice last month when the Wall Street Journal reported the agency paying for the work, the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, is spending a greater portion of its budget on advertising than any other federal agency.
Officials from the House oversight committee are demanding documents and information from the CFPB regarding its conspicuous ad budget, including all files related to its GMMB contract.
The CFPB, originally envisioned by arch-liberal Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), was created in the 2010 Dodd-Frank law and has a vague, sprawling mission to essentially stop what it deems as bad things from happening. The agency was also given special immunities from congressional oversight, prompting concerns since its creation that it is out of control.
The inquest adds to the smoke surrounding Clinton, who remains deeply imperiled by numerous investigations into her and her associates despite the decision by FBI Director James Comey not to recommend prosecution for what he described as her “extremely careless” treatment of classified documents while Secretary of State.
Hillary also continues to face questions regarding donations to the Clinton Foundation and “pay to play” allegations, including from the IRS, while the hacking of DNC emails has prompted a new FBI investigation that could turn up any number of things.
The GMMB contract, one of the largest of all federal advertising contracts that conveniently enriches a small group of professional operatives that helped Obama become president, also raises questions of whether the CFPB has overstepped federal regulations regarding the use of advertising.
For decades, the Justice Department has advised federal agencies not to engage in “grass roots” lobbying, or spending resources to rally activists around decisions preferred by agencies' political leadership.
Specifically, DOJ regulations prohibit “communications by executive officials directed to members of the public at large, or particular segments of the general public, intended to persuade them in turn to communicate with their elected representatives on some issue of concern to the executive.”
In particular, the CFPB has used advertisements to direct people to issue complaints regarding certain industries. The complaints, in turn, are being used to justify targeting enforcement towards those industries. In other words, rather than allowing the data to determine priorities, CFPB is essentially creating artificial data with advertising to justify its decisions.
On its face, such activity appears to have clearly crossed the line, and the fact that the prime beneficiaries are hardened Democratic operatives looks terrible. Ignore that for a second, though. Why is the federal government spending over $15 million in taxpayers' hard-earned cash to promote Elizabeth Warren's pet agency?
If the agency's purpose is so vital, it shouldn't need this generation's “Mad Men” to improve its image. There's simply no good reason to expand the role of advertising for federal agencies.
What's worse, if CFPB can get away with its ad spending, expect the bureaucrats from every federal agency to start examining their own ad campaigns. After all, it's not their money! Why not?
All the more why it's good news for the public that investigators are giving this a close look, even if it's the last thing Hillary wanted to hear.