America Rising Squared (AR2) filed a formal Hatch Act complaint with the Office of Special Counsel today, asking them to investigate possible violations by Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Richard Cordray as he considers running for governor of Ohio.
First reported by The Washington Examiner, the complaint cites five exhibits as evidence that Cordray may have violated the Hatch Act, including comments made by another potential Ohio gubernatorial candidate, the suggestion that Cordray could attend a popular picnic for political candidates, and his travel calendar, which shows 24 separate trips to Columbus, Ohio since November, 2016.
“For Richard Cordray to use his perch at the CFPB to plot a run for Governor violates his pledge to taxpayers and proves that the only thing he cares about is advancing his political career,” said Brian Rogers, Executive Director of America Rising Squared. “We hope the Office of Special Counsel takes this complaint seriously and conducts a full investigation to determine the extent to which the CFPB Director violated the Hatch Act in order to coordinate his early campaign activities.”
Below is Section 20 of the complaint that was filed, containing our allegation of a Hatch Act violation:
The director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Richard Cordray, is or appears to be taking steps to become a candidate for the governor of Ohio, the election for which will be held on November 6, 2018.
As early as November 18, 2016, Ohio Supreme Court Justice William O’Neill — the sole statewide-elected Democrat in Ohio — expressed interest in becoming a candidate in Ohio’s 2018 gubernatorial race. See Exhibit (“Ex.”) 1. Justice O’Neill eiaterated his interest on January 3, 2017, but noted that he would step aside if Cordray, a fellow Democrat, decided to run. See Ex. 2 (“‘If Richard Cordray is running, I’m not running because he’s the kind of quality candidate I want to see in the race.’”).
On or about July 19, 2017, Justice O’Neill told the media that he was “‘contacted by a mutual friend with Richard Cordray last week and they wanted to be very clear on whether my original commitment was still valid. And that was that if Richard Cordray is in the race for governor, I am out of the race for governor.’” Ex. 3.
If Cordray, a federal employee, authorized the above-referenced contact or even was aware that it would take place, he may have violated the Hatch Act. See, e.g., U.S. OFFICE OF THE SPECIAL COUNSEL, Advisory Opinion, OSC File No. AD-09-xxxx (June 17, 2009) (explaining that Hatch Act prohibits “any action which can reasonably be construed as evidence that [a federal employee] is seeking support for or undertaking an initial ‘campaign’”).
Additional activities by Cordray further suggest that he has initiated a prohibited campaign. For example, on or about July 23, 2017, a senior union official told the media that he had recently had a discussion with Cordray about attending a Labor Day weekend picnic in Cincinnati, Ohio that “draws thousands of union members and their families, along with dozens of (mostly) Democratic political candidates.” Ex. 4. Moreover, Cordray entertained a conversation about the governor’s race with a Democratic Party official from Hamilton County, Ohio. See id.
Against this backdrop, it should be noted that Cordray has traveled to Columbus, Ohio twenty-four times between November 8, 2016, when Republicans retained control of Congress and won the White House, and May 31, 2017, the last calendar for Cordray that CFPB has made available on its website. See Ex. 5 (indicating flights to “CHM,” the airport abbreviation for John Glenn Columbus International Airport, on Nov. 10, 19, 21, 2016; Dec. 8, 15, 27, 2016; Jan. 5, 12, 20, 27, 2017; Feb. 2, 10, 17, 23, 2017; Mar. 2, 23, 31, 2017; Apr. 6, 13, 20, 28; May 5, 10, 18, 2017).