Winning Progressive preferred Elizabeth Warren for Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director, but Richard Cordray is a strong choice whom we should support. (More)

Winning Progressive has long supported the nomination of Elizabeth Warren to be head of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which officially opens its doors this week. While we are disappointed that Warren was not nominated to head the CFPB, we support the president’s decision to nominate former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray. Cordray has long been a strong advocate for the middle class on issues related to consumer protection, and his nomination opens up the possibility that Warren will help Democrats take back the U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts that is now held by Republican Scott Brown. We urge our readers to contact their Senators and write a letter to their local newspaper editors urging the quick approval of Cordray so that the CFPB can get to work protecting American consumers.

Created by one of the core provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that the Democratic Congress passed in 2010, the CFPB would finally provide the American people with a federal regulatory watchdog over some of the sleaziest business sectors, including payday lenders, credit card companies, credit counseling entities, and subprime mortgage lenders. The goal of the CFPB is to make the pricing and risks of financial products offered by these entities much clearer and fairer to the American public so that payday lenders, etc. are no longer able to prey on the most financial vulnerable among us. While Warren and others have been working to set up the CFPB ever since Dodd-Frank was signed by the President, the CFPB officially opens its doors on July 21, 2011.

The CFPB was the brainchild of Warren, and she would have been the natural choice to head it. While Republicans have long opposed Warren because of her strong advocacy on behalf of working families who have been victimized by shady economic entities like payday lenders and credit card companies, it is clear that the GOP is more interested in destroying the CFPB itself. Nominating Warren would have given President Obama a great opportunity to highlight just how ridiculous the Republicans’ objections to common sense consumer protections are.

That said, Cordray is a strong nominee who has a proven track record of fighting for working families. For example, in his time as Ohio Attorney General, Cordray was at the forefront of efforts to hold Wall Street accountable for the economic debacle that they created. Faced with widespread foreclosures, declines in pensions, and increases in unemployment due to the casino-like atmosphere that overtook Wall Street, Cordray sought to recover funds from the Wall Street bankers whose fraudulent practices created those problems. And Cordray succeeded. As the New York Times explains:

Mr. Cordray in two years in office has demonstrated a willingness to sue early and often, filing lawsuits against global financial houses, rating agencies, subprime lenders and foreclosure scammers. He has wrested about $2 billion so far, a string of gilded pelts: a $475 million Merrill Lynch settlement, $400 million from Marsh & McLennan and $725 million from the American International Group….

His office has returned money to investors, pension funds, schools and cities. And he has directed millions to agencies fighting foreclosure.

Warren also strongly supports Cordray, as she selected him in December 2010 to head the CFPB’s enforcement division and said in response to President Obama’s nomination of Cordray:

Rich has always had my strong support because he is tough and he is smart — and that’s exactly the combination this new agency needs. His work and commitment have made it clear that he will make a stellar director.

Progressive Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown also voiced his support for Cordray, stating:

I’m proud to call Rich a colleague and a friend, and I look forward to watching him continue the important work begun by Elizabeth Warren. Rich shares her vision that consumers deserve a voice that is as loud and powerful as that of the financial services industry.

While we are disappointed that President Obama did not appoint Warren, Cordray will also be a strong director for the CFPB and will fight hard to protect working families from the worst abuses of the financial industry. It is also important to note that it is not clear that Warren even wanted the nomination and Warren is now free to run for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, where Democrats have a good opportunity to pick up a Senate seat in 2012.

The bottom line is that, thanks to Elizabeth Warren, the Obama administration, and Democrats in Congress, we have a strong Consumer Financial Protection Bureau opening this week, a well-qualified nominee to head that Bureau in Cordray, and the potential for a strong candidate in the U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts. We progressives should be celebrating this progress, fighting to make sure Cordray gets confirmed, and preparing to support Warren if she decides to run for U.S. Senate.

You can help out by contacting your Senators and writing letters to your local newspaper editors in support of Cordray, and by “Liking” this Facebook page calling on Warren to run for the U.S. Senate.