US Consumer Coalition: Shady Front Group Run by GOP Operatives, Paid for by Corporate Donors


The US Consumer Coalition Claims It’s a “Grassroots Advocacy Organization” …

  • The US Consumer Coalition Claims It’s A “Grassroots Advocacy Organization That Works to Protect Consumers’ Rights to Access Free-Market Goods and Services.” “The US Consumer Coalition (USCC) is a grassroots advocacy organization that works to protect consumers’ rights to access free-market goods and services.” [US Consumer Coalition Website]

…But It Is Actually Run and Staffed Entirely by Wise Public Affairs, a Public Relations Firm…

  • The US Consumer Coalition Is Run and Staffed Entirely by PR Firm, Wise Public Affairs That Is Stuffed with Ex-GOP Operatives”; US Consumer Coalition Was Set Up After The PR Firm Was Hired by an Anonymous Group of Donors. “But the US Consumer Coalition—which other consumer groups told me they had never heard of—is run and staffed entirely by a Virginia public relations firm stuffed with ex-GOP operatives. In fact, Wise tells Mother Jones a group of donors—he won’t say who—came to him last year and “hired” his firm, Wise Public Affairs, to set up the Consumer Coalition, which shares staff with his firm.” [Mother Jones, 2/26/15]

…That Is Owned and Run by GOP Operatives…

  • Brian Wise Has Been Described by Press Reports as A “Republican Political Consultant.” “This is sort of the new pro-choice movement, if you will,” Wise says. But he has an unusual résumé for someone who supposedly represents the interests of consumers. Before he became a consumer advocate, the press often described Wise as a Republican political consultant. His LinkedIn page describes expertise in “developing and executing public policy campaigns and corporate image campaigns through the use of non-profit organizations, grassroots mobilization, and strategic communication strategies.” [Mother Jones, 2/26/15]
  • The Press Contact for US Consumer Coalition Was the Former Communications Director of the American Conservative Union and CPAC, As Well as A Former Bush Administration Official. “Wise Public Affairs announced in February it hired Laura Keehner Rigas, a former communications director for the American Conservative Union (ACU) and its Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). The former Bush Administration official is now the press contact for the USCC.” [Washington Business Journal, 6/13/14]
  • US Consumer Coalition’s Lobbyist Was Sarah Makin. [US Consumer Coalition Lobbying Registration Form]
  • Makin Previously Worked for The House Republican Study Committee and Had Advised Republican Representatives Scalise, Pence, Hensarling and Forbes. “Wise Public Affairs (WPA) today announced it has hired Sarah E. Makin, a 7-year veteran of Capitol Hill who most recently served as the Director of Conservative Coalitions and State Outreach for the House Republican Study Committee (RSC). Makin, who has been a trusted policy and coalitions advisor to RSC Chairman Steve Scalise (R-LA), Governor Mike Pence (R-IN), Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), and Representative Randy Forbes (R-VA), left the Hill in late August to accept the position of Vice President at Wise Public Affairs.” [Wise Public Affairs Press Release, 2/4/14]

…And Even Has Newt Gingrich as a Paid Advisor

  • Newt Gingrich Admitted in Congressional Testimony That He Was a Paid Advisor to The US Consumer Coalition. GREEN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let me start with a few questions. And I’d like for you to raise your hands if these questions apply to you. If you are in any way now or ever connected to the U.S. Consumer Coalition, would you kindly raise your hand? Let the record reflect that Mr. Gingrich has raised his hand. If you are now or you have ever been paid by the Wise Group, if you would raise your hand? The Wise Public Affairs Group. Thank you. And Mr. Gingrich, since you’ve raised your hands both times, I’d like to know a little bit more about the Wise Public Affairs Group. But before I get there, I want to go back to something that you and I had broached earlier and that has to do with your statement. Because in your statement, you do indicate that you are an adviser, in advisory capacity. But I was hoping that you would do what was done when The Wall Street Journal had to issue its additional statement, and that is indicate that you were a paid adviser to the Wise Public Affairs Group because you well know that the Wise Public Affairs Group owns and operates the U.S. Consumer Coalition. So I was disappointed that this was not called to our attention. As has been indicated, this is not the first time this has been done. You pride yourself in transparency, but for some reason you didn’t reveal this money connection. You were willing to reveal that you just happen to advise, but you’re making a profit based upon this advice because you work for the Wise Group. If I have misstated this about your working for the Wise Public Affairs Group and also being connected to the U.S. Consumer Coalition, would you kindly raise your hand again, because I’d like to hear from you if you have? (Not misstated.) Let the record reflect that what I’ve said toward Mr. Gingrich is accurate. [House Committee on Financial Services, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Holds a Hearing on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Mass Data Collection Program, 12/16/15]
  • Gingrich Declined to Disclose His Fee for Advising The US Consumer Coalition. “Mr. Gingrich, who declined to disclose his fee, said he is happy to write opinion pieces and speak out on the issue. Mr. Gingrich spoke at a June 24 event at Morton’s Steak House in Washington was billed as a “closed press, confidential luncheon,” about the Choke Point program, according to an invitation viewed by the Wall Street Journal.” [Wall Street Journal, 7/24/14]

Wise Public Affairs Has Received $140,000 in Lobbying Fees from the US Consumer Coalition


The Funding for US Consumer Coalition Comes from Corporate Donors Who Oppose the CFPB and Operation Choke Point…

  • Wise Admitted That Corporate Donors and “People Who Have Interest in The Industries” Fund The US Consumer Coalition. “But the Consumer Coalition’s interests don’t make it any easier to decipher who’s funding it. Wise—who admitted that corporate donors and “people who have interest in the industries” backed the group—denied that “any financial institution” was involved in paying its bills. Uber isn’t funding it either, he says. The porn industry and the NRA, which have both been critical of Operation Chokepoint, haven’t chipped in, either, according to Wise. The group’s true funders may never be known. As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, the Consumer Coalition is permanently exempt from revealing its donors. [Mother Jones, 2/26/15]

…And Wise Didn’t Deny That Banks Funded the Organization When Asked

  • Wise Said “No Comment” When Asked If Banks Were Behind the Funding of The US Consumer Coalition. Brian Wise, a partner in the Washington strategic communications shop Wise Public Affairs, began forming USCC at the beginning of the year. A Facebook site was launched in March, and the group has stepped up its media campaign with a new feature called “Whistleblower Wednesdays,” which highlights business that allegedly have been hurt by Choke Point. But who are the “grassroots” behind the campaign? “If the donors are identified they will automatically have a target on their back,” Wise told me in a telephone interview. “The donors will never be disclosed.” Wise said the donors are not payday lenders, including the industry-association plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the government. And there’s no porn star money, he added. He said, “No comment” when asked if banks were putting money into the campaign.” [Washington Business Journal, 6/13/14]

The “Consumer” Organization Is Fighting the CFPB and Operation Choke Point…

  • The US Consumer Coalition Seeks to Gut The CFPB Saying It’s Not “Structured in an Effective Manner to Achieve Its Stated Goals of Protecting American Consumers” And Poses “A Threat to American Consumers and The Businesses That Provide Them Goods and Services.” “The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), constituted by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, is not a federal agency structured in an effective manner to achieve its stated goals of protecting American consumers. Encumbered by no legislative oversight, the CFPB creates its own regulatory agenda and, at will, is able to make unilateral policy decisions that rightly belong to the jurisdiction of elected officials in Congress. Moreover, these unchecked policy decisions potentially pose a threat to American consumers and the businesses that provide them goods and services.” [US Consumer Coalition Website]
  • The US Consumer Coalition Claims It Is “Leading The Fight Against Operation Choke Point.” “The US Consumer Coalition is leading the fight against Operation Choke Point. The programs harms consumer choice and freedom while severely threatening the foundation for our country’s free-market economic stability. In addition, USCC believes the Administration’s efforts through Operation Choke Point are unconstitutional, illegal, and fundamentally violate due process.” [US Consumer Coalition Website]

…And Announced It Would Spend up to $5 Million on Their Campaign…

  • The US Consumer Coalition Announced It Would Spend Up to $5 Million On a Campaign Against Operation Choke Point. “A mysterious group of business people will spend up to $5 million campaigning against the federal government’s “Operation Choke Point” crackdown on financial fraud. The United States Consumer Coalition says the U.S. Department of Justice operation unfairly targets legal businesses by choking off their access to banks and third-party payment processors. Those businesses include payday lenders, guns and ammo stores and a host of online businesses and charities. A few porn stars have been targeted, too.” [Washington Business Journal, 6/13/14]

US Consumer Coalition’s Wise Is Prone to Using Bombastic Language in Opposition to the CFPB and Choke Point- Claiming the Administration Is “Controlling Which Industries Should Be Allowed to Operate” and “Changing the Way Commerce Is Conducted in America” …

  • Wise Claimed That Operation Choke Point Was “Creating an Environment Where the Administration Alone Is Defining and Controlling Which Industries Should Be Allowed to Operate.” Brian Wise wrote in an op-ed, “The administration has invested significant resources and political capital into Operation Choke Point since at least 2011, if not before. There is little doubt the program, which some believe is a violation of due process and an illegal use of government power, has thus far accomplished what it was designed to do. It is shutting down businesses that are ideologically at odds with the administration. It is increasing the liability and thus the compliance requirements of financial institutions that do business with those targeted industries. It is perhaps most shockingly creating an environment where the administration alone is defining and controlling which industries should be allowed to operate. It has accomplished all this without Congress being consulted, and certainly never approving the program.” [Brian Wise Op-Ed, American Banker, 8/25/14]
  • Wise Claimed That Without a Grassroots Effort to Combat Operation Choke Point, “The Administration Will Likely Succeed in Fundamentally Changing the Way Commerce Is Conducted in America.” Brian Wise wrote in an op-ed, “Without a unified, grassroots effort to combat this threat to such a wide range of industries, the Administration will likely succeed in fundamentally changing the way commerce is conducted in America – to the detriment of America’s consumers and the innovative businesses that serve them.” [Brian Wise Op-Ed, American Banker, 8/25/14]
  • Wise Compared American for Financial Reform to ACORN with Activism On Issues Such as Wall Street Reform, Dismantling The Short-Term Loan Industry, And Creating New Agencies Like The CFPB. Brian Wise wrote in an op-ed, “The ACORN-like network of grass-roots activists overseen by AFR has been growing during the last 10 years. It includes hundreds of local, state and national organizations that have focused their activism on issues such as Wall Street reform, passing the Dodd-Frank Act, dismantling the short-term loan industry, advocating for postal banking, and creating new government agencies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to use the power of an unregulated and unaccountable agency to impose reams of new regulations on numerous industries.” [Brian Wise Op-Ed, The Washington Times, 1/27/16]

…He Even Claimed That Banks Are the Victims

  • Wise: Banks Are the Victims of Operation Choke Point. “Wise said by late summer the campaign will begin spending at least $1.5 million on paid television commercials targeting U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and some Congressional Democrats who have supported Choke Point. “This is a situation where the banks are kind of the victims,” Wise said. “This is the ultimate chilling effect.’” [Washington Business Journal, 6/13/14]

Wise Is So Anti-Consumer That He Even Opposed Lessening Interest on Student Loans

  • Wise Called Sen. Sanders Proposal to “Forgive or Lessen Interest” On Student Loans an Attempt at “Buying The Votes of Millions of Americans with Taxpayers’ Money.” Brian Wise wrote in an op-ed, “Mr. Sanders is bringing back the power of the single-issue voter and mobilizing otherwise disengaged young Americans by touting a “free lunch” proposal to forgive or lessen interest on the more than $1.2 trillion in student loan debt in America, in essence buying the votes of millions of Americans with taxpayers’ money.” [Brian Wise Op-Ed, The Washington Times, 1/27/16]

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