Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), the new Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee (HFSC), was a career conservative ideologue long before he entered Congress in 2005.
McHenry has worked for conservative officials and candidates since at least 1996 and now proudly touts himself as a “strong ally of President Trump,” who called McHenry “‘the greatest name in politics’” at a bill signing ceremony for legislation to “considerably” weaken vital financial industry reforms.
McHenry also maintains “strong ties” to Republican leadership, is a “top ally” of now-Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and said one of his “proudest accomplishments” was serving as Chief Deputy Whip during the passage of the 2017 Trump tax cuts.
McHenry has been a member of the House Financial Services Committee since his first year in Congress in 2005 and has been its top Republican since 2018.
Now, as he takes the Financial Services Committee’s gavel, McHenry has said he will pursue “‘vigorous oversight’” of federal financial regulators while his campaign currently touts his longstanding efforts to fight “regulatory constraints.”
Meanwhile, McHenry has taken over $9.4 million from the finance, insurance, and real estate sectors overseen by the HFSC during his federal career, including at least $1.3 million from financial industry companies between January 2021 and September 2022 alone. Major industry groups have also endorsed McHenry, given him awards for his efforts, and featured him at annual conferences.
McHenry has advanced financial industry interests beyond the Financial Services committee. In 2012, while Chair of the House Oversight Committee’s subcommittee on post-2008 financial reforms, McHenry summoned the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB’s) inaugural director, Richard Cordray, for his first official congressional testimony, where McHenry called Cordray an “‘unelected and unaccountable bureaucrat’” and questioned the legitimacy of the Bureau. Despite McHenry’s efforts, Cordray ultimately recovered $12 billion in fines from major banks on behalf of consumers while he served from 2012 to 2017.
In his most recent 2021 annual financial disclosure, McHenry reported owning up to $350,000 in real estate investments, including up to $250,000 in a 12-unit apartment building, all while the Financial Services Committee’s jurisdiction includes “public and private housing.” Notably, McHenry has taken over $1 million from a major real estate industry PAC known as a cover for industry contributions and praised the Supreme Court reversal of the Biden Administration’s eviction moratorium while offering what he claimed was a solution in a bill that housing advocates said would grind housing assistance to “a halt.” Rep. McHenry also voted for and actively promoted the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Trump’s “signature legislative achievement” which slashed corporate taxes by 40% and predominantly benefited the wealthy, including real estate investors who benefited from the legislation’s change allowing 100 percent bonus depreciation on qualified assets and the pass through deduction.
Rep. McHenry has introduced two versions of the Protecting Consumers’ Access to Credit Act, legislation that over 150 consumer advocacy organizations urged Congress to reject because it would expand “rent-a-bank” arrangements that allow high-cost lenders to avoid state caps on excessive interest rates.
Rep. McHenry introduced the Bureau Arbitration Fairness Act, a bill to eliminate the CFPB’s ability to prohibit or limit companies’ forced arbitration agreements with consumers. Reps. Hank Johnson (D-GA) and John Conyers (D-MI) said the bill would “‘insulate the nation’s largest financial institutions from all legal recourse, even when they have violated the law.’” The Consumer Federation of America criticized the bill as “weaken[ing] consumers’ ability to deter wrongdoing and hold wrongdoers accountable” while being “contrary to consumers’ interests.”
Rep. McHenry called the CFPB’s Arbitration Rule—which made it easier for harmed consumers to join together in class-action lawsuits against abusive financial services companies— “deeply flawed” and co-sponsored a resolution that successfully invalidated the rule through the Congressional Review Act.
McHenry voted for and “pushed for the swift implementation” of S. 2155, the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, a major bill to weaken Dodd-Frank financial reforms “designed to tame Wall Street, protect consumers and make our financial system less fragile."
McHenry voted for the OIRA Insight, Reform, and Accountability Act, a bill that sought to undermine the CFPB's independence and "would have a crippling effect on the regulation of our financial system."
McHenry voted for the Taking Account of Institutions with Low Operation Risk (TAILOR) Act of 2017, which would have forced the CFPB and other regulators to “prioritize the costs of regulations to financial institutions,” among other anti-consumer provisions.
Rep. McHenry voted for the Searching for and Cutting Regulations that are Unnecessarily Burdensome Act (SCRUB) Act, an anti-regulatory bill that was criticized by House Democrats as “prioritiz[ing] corporate profits over the health and safety of the American public" and would have overridden agency expertise with an “unelected commission.”
In the House Financial Services Committee, McHenry voted to advance H.R. 3072, the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection Examination and Reporting Threshold Act, a bill that would have slashed the number of banks under CFPB oversight by two-thirds.
McHenry’s conservative arc began in college when he was a staffer for the 1996 North Carolina gubernatorial campaign of Robin Hayes, who later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in a federal corruption probe. During this time, McHenry also founded his school’s College Republicans chapter, became Chairman of the group’s state chapter, and eventually rose to be the group’s national treasurer. In 1997, McHenry even led a protest where demonstrators dressed as Bill and Hillary Clinton in prison outfits.
After college, McHenry worked for controversial “conservative dark arts” communications firm DCI Group, where he ran NotHillary.com, a site that featured unattributed personal attacks against Clinton, a “hair-o-matic” to mockingly change her hairstyles, and a fictitious speech that had her say, “‘I'm bitter, angry, hate-filled, vindictive, and tough as a jackass' hide.’”
In 2000, McHenry was picked by George W. Bush’s “architect” Karl Rove to be the campaign’s National Coalition Director and was an operative for Bush during the Florida recount, known for the “‘Brooks Brothers Riot’” where Bush allies stormed a Miami election office.
After the 2000 election, McHenry was tapped to be Special Assistant to Bush Labor Secretary Elaine Chao—Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s wife—who faced criticism for favoring business over workers and has been on the boards of several major corporations.
Later in Congress, McHenry was on the House Oversight Committee from 2005 to 2015, as it pursued at least three highly-partisan investigations into the Obama administration and stoked controversies about the Benghazi Attack, alleged IRS targeting of conservative organizations, and the U.S Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ Fast And Furious Program.
In 2005, his first year in Congress, Rep. McHenry was one of only 20 Republican House members who tried to shield then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay from indictment before DeLay soon resigned amid corruption charges in 2006.
In 2002, McHenry’s legislative career began after he won a North Carolina House race for a “newly created” district after losing a 1998 campaign amid accusations of being “‘miserably unqualified’” and of “‘never having done anything in the community.’”
Just six months after entering the North Carolina House, McHenry announced his first campaign for Congress in the 2004 cycle. He was accused of moving into the congressional district “only days before announcing his candidacy,” and of forming a real estate business with no listed assets to build his “resume” in the district.
However, despite being an “unknown” in his congressional district, McHenry won his seat thanks to funding from national “conservative godfathers” and “the PACs of powerful lobbies,” including a $180,000 TV ad campaign from the anti-tax Club for Growth. McHenry also “couldn’t count on much of a local volunteer base,” so he relied on his national contacts with College Republicans, who may have supplied him with campaign operatives in violation of the group’s bylaws against taking positions in primaries.