Brad Miller and Eric Schneiderman. AP Images
A central focus for progressives that want to see the Residential Mortgage Backed Securities working group get tough on the financial industry has been the role of executive director. Currently, the group has five co-chairs from four different federal and state agencies, and the staffers are spread through ten different US Attorney offices and several more state attorney general offices—that is, there are a lot of chefs in the kitchen.
A strong executive director could focus the work of the task force and help smooth over any potential disagreements between the varying departments and chairmen. Several progressive activists pushed early on for Representative Brad Miller, a Democrat from North Carolina, to get the job. He has a strong record of getting tough on Wall Street from his seat on the House Financial Services Committee, and is also a Columbia Law School graduate with twenty years of private litigation experience before coming to Congress.
But David Dayen reported earlier this month that Miller would not get the job. In a phone interview last night, Miller told me about his experience with the working group and the reasons he believed he was not selected—reasons that will likely give advocates for getting tough on Wall Street some serious heartburn.
Miller said he received a phone call from the office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman only two days after this year’s State of the Union address, in which President Obama announced the formation of the working group and named Schneiderman a co-chair. “It was out of the blue for me. I was not expecting a call like that,” Miller said.
The conversations with Schneiderman’s office continued almost daily for about a month, Miller said, and he got the strong impression he was a top candidate for the job. “It would be an exaggeration to say I was offered the job, but it certainly did appear that I was Schneiderman’s candidate for the job,” Miller said. “They were looking for someone who knew the issue, who would be credible to those who worked on the issue, the housing advocates, and knew the politics of the issue so that when others were trying to hobble the work of the task force, they would have an executive director who would know the politics of Washington and the politics of this issue to protect the work of the task force.”
Suddenly, however, the conversations ended, and Miller said he hasn’t spoken with anyone on the task force in two months. But he did get an answer as to why he wasn’t selected—because the working group was afraid of Wall Street.
“[One reason] was that Republicans were watching the work of the task force very closely and very critically, and that they would oppose my playing that role. And presumably they would be speaking for the industry,” Miller said.