Unafraid of Wells Fargo; committed to debates

Andy Barr
Andy Barr

It will surprise no one that after nearly two years of systematically ignoring the work of my office and our achievements in Congress, the Herald-Leader has suddenly — in the middle of election season — followed up two inaccurate and misleading “news reports” with two biased and uninformed editorials.

First, the newspaper claimed that I had been “mum” on the Wells Fargo scandal. In fact, upon learning about the allegations, I immediately called for Wells Fargo and any other institution culpable of this kind of misconduct to be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.

I also urged the chairman of the Financial Services Committee to hold hearings on both the fraudulent activities at the bank and the regulatory incompetence that allowed these practices to go unpunished for at least five years. The committee announced it was launching its investigation two days before the newspaper ran its hit piece; but the newspaper conveniently omitted these facts and continued to ignore them in subsequent editorials.

Then, the Herald-Leader suggested that I support legislation to “gut” the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Instead, the legislation I support would reform and improve the agency to make it a bipartisan commission subject to congressional appropriations and oversight.

It would make the agency more accountable, less fixated on politicizing the allocation of credit and more focused on its actual mission of protecting consumers. The legislation would significantly increase the penalties for the kind of unfair and deceptive practices committed by Wells Fargo. And it would target regulatory relief to Main Street community banks and credit unions, which are the very institutions that provide competition and accountability to big banks like Wells Fargo.

In a separate article, the newspaper reported that I had would not attend the League of Women Voters debate and quoted my challenger’s campaign manager saying that I was avoiding debates, although I had already committed to two debates. The KET debate, which I agreed to weeks ago, will be aired live on public television and then be available online for any interested voter to see.

The follow-up editorial claimed that the newspaper was interested in voters having enough information to make good decisions when they go to the polls this November.

I agree, which is why I committed to debates and why I have implemented, throughout the last four years, an accessibility initiative which, although ignored by the Herald-Leader, has allowed me get to know the people I serve, listen to their concerns and to be open and honest about where I stand on the issues.

A professional newspaper truly committed to helping voters make informed decisions would accurately report the facts and actually cover the work of its congressman. Unfortunately, the Herald-Leader seems more interested in continuing its long track record of bias and misinformation to tear down public servants with whom it disagrees.

The people of Kentucky deserve better.

Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, represents the 6th District.