Battles over the consumer protection agency heat up

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Efforts at reform are usually met with fisticuffs. So it’s certainly not surprising that the Obama administration’s push for financial regulatory reform has lobbyists, bankers, and lawmakers geared up for battle. At the beginning of the summer, President Obama unveiled a proposal to create an agency to enhance consumer protections. The new outfit would monitor credit-card billing practices to guard against predatory lending, monitor mortgages and shield Americans from risky financial products they may not understand.

Not known for their passivity, industry lobbyists representing financial titans like major commercial banks, have already expressed their sincere opposition and are working tirelessly behind the scenes to sink the agency before it can get started. As part of that plan, it looks like they might be rolling out divisive ad campaigns to defeat the agency.

According to a fascinating article by Jessica Holzer at Dow Jones Newswires, industry lobbyists are mulling over plans to launch “Harry and Louise” style ads. Devoted followers of Hillary Clinton’s push to create universal health care coverage might remember these ads launched in the 1990s.

The ad depicted two typical Americans, ensconced in their perfect middle class house. But wait, this otherwise idyllic couple had a problem, they were dealing with the byzantine health-care bureaucracy and their lives or rather their quality of life was finished, kaput. It’s not clear yet what the attack ads against the consumer protection agency will look like, but Holzer reports that they are already underway: Four public relations firms, including Powell Tate and Direct Impact, pitched their ideas for the television spot at a meeting.

But the Consumer Federation of America, a strong advocate of the agency, has kicked of its own ad campaign, signaling that it won’t let the reform plan go down without a real fight.

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