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Friday, October 27, 2017

U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus is the reason it will be harder to take on big banks

Posted By on Fri, Oct 27, 2017 at 11:32 AM

Keith Rothfus
  • Keith Rothfus
On Oct. 24, President Donald Trump, in a White House statement, applauded the passage of House Joint Resolution 111, which will eliminate a proposed rule that would have stopped financial institutions from forcing legal complaints to be settled out of court. Every indication points to Trump signing the bill into law when it reaches his desk. If and when that happens, customers will be barred from joining class-action lawsuits against big banks and the ilk, and instead will be forced to negotiate with financial institutions, and their powerful legal teams, one on one in arbitration.

And while this appears to be just another Trump action negating a rule created during President Barack Obama’s tenure, this roll-back was actually proposed and sponsored by Pittsburgh-area U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley). In an Oct. 24 statement, Rothfus said of the Obama-era proposed rule, “Plain and simple, this rule will harm consumers and line the pockets of trial lawyers—something that contradicts the very mission of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It is yet another example of an out-of-touch Washington mandate handed down from this unconstitutional and widely unaccountable agency.”

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was created in 2010 to shield consumers from unscrupulous practices of financial institutions and has been championed by tough-on-Wall-Street politicians like U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts). And while Rothfus, who represents Pennsylvania's 12th U.S. Congressional District, claims that rolling back the rule will help consumers, the change comes at an odd time, considering the headlines made by Wells Fargo bank, and its fake-account scandal, and the security breach at credit-monitoring firm Equifax.

The Atlantic Monthly points out on Oct. 25 that consumers could suffer and companies like Wells Fargo and Equifax could actually benefit from the Rothfus’ rule change. It writes: “The nullification of the CFPB’s rule means that people who suffered financial harm or identity theft as a result of either of these large companies’ lapses may not have the right to take them to court.”

The U.S. Department of the Treasury issued a 17-page report before the vote, criticizing the CFPB rule. The Treasury report said the rule costs businesses “extraordinary” fees without providing many benefit to consumers. (It should be noted that the Treasury Secretary is Steven Mnuchin, the former executive vice president of financial giant Goldman Sachs, a company criticized for contributing to the 2008 financial crisis due to shoddy mortgage-lending practices.)

Also of interest is while Rothfus claims that the CFPB rule was an “out-of-touch” mandate, most Americans actually support the work of the CFPB. According to five years of surveys conducted by the Americans for Financial Reform and the Center for Responsible Lending, 74 percent of voters support the CFPB, with 85 percent of Democrats backing the organization and 66 percent of Republicans supporting it.

Even a 2016 Morning Consult poll of Trump voters found that a plurality of 41 percent of respondents believe the Trump administration shouldn’t alter the CFPB.

Rothfus received a lot of negative reactions on Facebook from constituents after he announced his bill cleared the U.S. Senate. The bill easily cleared the U.S. House mostly along party lines, but received a 50-50 tie in the U.S. Senate. Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote.

Earl Lynch, who is listed as a constituent on Facebook, commented on Rothfus’ page: “You could have given the consumer the freedom to choose between litigation and mediation when a conflict arose. But you decided to protect the big boys and screw me. You’re not a Republican. You’re a Corporationist.”

Another constituent, Amanda Surratt, wrote, “Thanks for making it impossible for regular folks to stand up to ultra rich & powerful corporations.”

Some constituents even insinuated that Rothfus’ push to change the CFPB is tied to campaign donations he receives from financial institutions and banks. It’s impossible to determine if donations influence Rothfus’ actions, but the congressman has received significant backing from big banks and other financial organizations.

Dollar Bank, the Pittsburgh region’s largest community bank, has given Rothfus $13,700 since 2013, according to campaign-finance-tracking website followthemoney.org and 2017 campaign-finance disclosures. Since 2013, Goldman Sachs has given $10,500 to Rothfus' campaigns, and Equifax even gave $2,000 to Rothfus' campaign this year.

Since 2009, Rothfus’ campaigns have received more than $140,000 from commercial banks. Overall, the finance, insurance and real-estate industries have been among the biggest contributors to Rothfus’ campaigns, funneling about $865,000 to him over the years.

A request for comment from Rothfus' office went unanswered as of press time.

Rothfus currently has four Democratic opponents challenging him for his seat: Aaron Anthony, of Shaler; Tom Prigg, of McCandless; John Stolz, of Shaler; and Beth Tarasi, of Sewickley. Rothfus will face re-election in 2018.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Yes, that’s local U.S. Rep. candidate Tom Prigg in Netflix’s new 'Mindhunter' series

Posted By on Wed, Oct 18, 2017 at 2:51 PM

Tom Prigg - PHOTO COURTESY OF TOM PRIGG
  • Photo courtesy of Tom Prigg
  • Tom Prigg
Did you see that SWAT member in the background of a scene where a young woman is being held hostage in Netflix’s recently premiered show "Mindhunter"?  Well, he’s from Southwestern Pennsylvania and he’s running for U.S. Congress.

Continue reading »

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Tuesdays with Toomey takes on gun control

Posted By on Tue, Oct 10, 2017 at 5:31 PM

Shuana Gibson closes out today's event - CP PHOTO BY REBECCA ADDISON
  • CP photo by Rebecca Addison
  • Shuana Gibson closes out today's event
If it's a Tuesday afternoon, you can usually find a group of at least a dozen protesters outside of the Downtown Pittsburgh office of U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). The group has been meeting at the senator's office over the past year to champion causes like healthcare and environmental regulations.

At today's installment of Tuesdays with Toomey, the issue was gun control. The event was one of thousands that have occurred around the country in response to the recent massacre in Las Vegas, where 58 people were killed and more than 500 were injured.

Continue reading »

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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

U.S. Rep Tim Murphy, who allegedly urged mistress to have an abortion, just voted to restrict abortions

Posted By on Wed, Oct 4, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Tim Murphy
  • Tim Murphy
On the afternoon of Oct. 3, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette broke a story of how Shannon Edwards, a Pittsburgh forensic psychologist and the admitted mistress of U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Upper St. Clair), alleged in a Facebook post that the congressmen urged her to get an abortion when the two had a pregnancy scare. Edwards appeared upset that Murphy's Facebook page was filled with pro-life messaging.

Murphy responded to Edwards' post in a text message, obtained by the PG, saying "I get what you say about my March for life messages. I've never written them. Staff does them. I read them and winced. I told staff don't write any more. I will."

And just two hours after this story broke, Murphy voted yes for a bill that would make it illegal for women to get abortions after they are pregnant for 20 weeks. The bill, HR 36, passed the U.S. House by a 237-189 margin. If it passes the Senate and is signed by President Donald Trump, the bill says that "a violator is subject to criminal penalties—a fine, up to five years in prison, or both." The Trump administration supports the bill and as said it "will help to facilitate a culture of life," according to the Huffington Post.

Exceptions to the 20-week rule include if the woman was a victim of rape or incest and if the abortion is necessary to save the mother's life.

Murphy's voting record aligns with his most recent vote to restrict women's abortion access. In 2015, he was given a 0 percent rating by the pro-choice organization National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL). And for his 2014 congressional run, he was endorsed by the National Right to Life Committee, Inc., a pro-life group for his "100% pro-life voting record."

In fact, earlier this year Murphy supported HR 7, which would prohibit insurance companies from offering coverage for abortions. Murphy said in a statement in January after the bill passed the U.S. House: “I am so proud the House passed this important bill to clearly stand for the dignity and value of all human life, both the born and the unborn. Passage of H.R. 7 in the wake of the President’s executive action yesterday gives me great hope that moving forward, we will once again be a nation committed to honoring life from the moment of conception onward and ensuring American taxpayer dollars are never spent to end a life before it even begins.”

Sasha Bruce, Senior VP for Campaigns and Strategy of NARAL, said Murphy's vote on HR 36, and many of his other votes, is the "height of hypocrisy."

“I wish it were shocking to learn that yet another Republican congressman tried to cover up an affair by invoking the same abortion rights he tries to deny to others," wrote in an email to City Paper. "You shouldn’t have to be a member of Congress just to access your right to abortion. With his personal and public actions, Congressman Murphy has shown that he seeks to control women in every facet of his life, be it to cover up an affair or to deny all Americans the right to legal abortion."

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