Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has been cleared of allegations that he improperly positioned himself to run in Ohio’s gubernatorial contest while leading the Obama-era agency, according to a newly disclosed letter from the government office that enforces restrictions on federal employees’ political activity.
Cordray, a former Ohio attorney general and treasurer, has been pressed for months by rumors of his interest in the 2018 governor’s race—a suspicion that has prompted speculation from critics about whether he violated the Hatch Act, a federal law that imposes restrictions on government employees for engaging in political activity.
Cordray has steadfastly remained mum about any plans to run for Ohio governor, inviting speculation that he will leave his post as CFPB director before his term expires in July 2018.
In July, U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, the Republican chairman of the House Financial Services Committee and long a critic of Cordray, called on the Office of Special Counsel to investigate the CFPB director for a potential violation of the Hatch Act. Hensarling pointed to media reports about a potential Democratic challenger in the race being asked if he would stay out of the primary if Cordray entered, according to a report by Cleveland.com.
A Republican-aligned opposition research group, America Rising Squared, also submitted a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel, and the Republican Governors Association has filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking documents about any campaign activities by Cordray.
The Office of Special Counsel, in an Oct. 12 letter to Cordray, said it had “found no evidence that you have violated the Hatch Act.” Cordray could have faced reprimand—up to removal from office—if found to have violated the law.
“The complaints OSC received alleged that you violated the Hatch Act by engaging in preliminary activities regarding a candidacy for Governor or Ohio,” wrote Erica Hamrick, deputy chief of the Office of Special Counsel’s Hatch Act unit. “OSC’s investigation, however, found no evidence that you have engaged in any of the types of preliminary activities directed toward candidacy that would violate the Hatch Act. Accordingly, we are closing our file without further action.”
The CFPB declined to comment on the letter or provide details about the office’s investigation into Cordray.