Congress is warning Americans that the agency charged with safeguarding their wallet -- the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau -- is orchestrating a huge taxpayer rip off, renovating their downtown headquarters for nearly as much as the building is worth.
“You are spending more per square foot than the Trump World Tower” cost to build, jabbed Rep. Jeb Hensarling, chair of the House Committee on Financial Services, at CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “You are spending more than the Bellagio Hotel and Casino” cost to build in Las Vegas, he added at a hearing this week.
At issue is the $114 million-$145 million renovation of the three-year-old agency’s HQ adjacent to the White House. Included: a rooftop kiddie play yard, a fancy new lobby and landscaping, as well as new security, wiring and HVAC.
“We have to do certain things so that the building can be brought up to code and work properly,” explained Cordray, who added that the agency looked for alternative offices. “We have leased a tough building,” he said, criticizing the HQ.
Some lawmakers, especially Republicans, are angered with the spending by the agency whose creation they opposed over the wishes of President Obama and his former consumer chief, current Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., long a critic of the rehab, told Secrets that he has just demanded an audit of the project which he said has soared to three times the initial $55 million estimate and is nearly as high as building’s total appraisal of $153 million.
"While it is completely ridiculous that a federal agency would spend over a hundred million dollars in taxpayer money to renovate leased office space, my greater concern is the lack of transparency from CFPB leaders on what has caused the renovation budget to skyrocket," McHenry told Secrets.
"The federal government owes it to the public to be as open as possible about how their hard-earned money is spent. Unfortunately, the CFPB has shown complete disregard for this leaving me with little choice but to call for an IG investigation," he added.
The building isn’t new. It used to house the now defunct Office of Thrift Supervision.
Hensarling suggested moving to a different location is a better choice. “My guess is cheaper space could have been found in Reston and the American taxpayers would have appreciated it.”
The Washington Examiner initially reported on the renovation overrun last July, when the price has soared to $95 million.Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.