CD11: McNerney fires back at Harmer

In the latest television ad in the 11th Congressional District race, Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney is hitting GOP opponent David Harmer on the challenger’s occupation as a former lawyer in the banking industry.

The Democrat hopes to paint Harmer as shady lawyer who engaged in unscrupulous predatory lending practices and benefited from federal bailout program that the Republican now opposes.

While many may view a lawyer who worked for a credit card company as unworthy of admiration or a vote, McNerney’s claims fall considerably short of the truth. Here’s fact-check.

What it says: “The file on David Harmer isn’t pretty.
A corporate lawyer for a credit card company fined millions
Even deceiving seniors. An executive for predatory lenders.”

Is it true? Yes, Harmer’s employer engaged in nefarious practices for which it paid fines but Harmer had nothing to do with them. Harmer did not join Providian until September 2001, a year after the company paid a $305 million fine related to charges that it tricked customers into buying products they did not want. For example, Providian approved credit cards for poor people and subsequently imposed fees and limits that trapped them into debts they could never repay.

Harmer says he was part of the clean-up team hired to whip the company into shape. “It was unconscionable what (prior Providian managers) did,” Harmer said. “The entire top management tier was fired and replaced. But I was part of the solution.”

Undeniably, media and regulatory investigations into the entire credit card industry in recent years has revealed a number of predatory practices such as excessive interest rates and a failure to disclose to customers that making minimum payments would never allow retirement of the debt.

But blaming Harmer for an entire industry’s failings is at least as questionable as blaming McNerney for every one of Congress’ shortcomings.

What it says: “…  Harmer’s bank got billions from the Wall Street bank bail out.”

Is it true? Yes, JPMorgan Chase received federal bailout money but there is no evidence that Harmer benefited from it.

Providian was sold to Washington Mutual, where Harmer continued to work as a vice president and associate lawyer in its credit card division. When Washington Mutual’s home lending division bankrupted the company, federal regulators orchestrated a purchase by JPMorgan Chase in September 2008, Within a few months, JPMorgan closed down the credit card division and Harmer was laid off in January 2009. He was paid $485,779 between Jan. 1, 2008, and April 30, 2009, in salary, severance and bonuses.

JPMorgan received received $25 billion from the federal Troubled Asset Relief Program roughly two weeks after the FDIC conducted the sale of Washington Mutual. But there is no evidence that JPMorgan Chase, which had just bought Bear Stearns, needed or used the TARP funds to buy Washington Mutual or pay the salaries or severance packages of Harmer and the other employees the new owner sent packing.

JPMorgan Chase repaid the TARP money with interest as soon as federal authorities allowed it.

Here is the ad:

Lisa Vorderbrueggen

  • John W

    No argument with the “fact check.” Team McNerney could have come up with a more accurate spin on Harmer’s banking ties. That said, Harmer opens himself up when he claims to be a “constitutional lawyer” (whatever that is) and a “businessman” when, in fact, he has spent the past 9 years (1) running for Congress and (2) working as a compliance lawyer for a company that was a poster child for the subprime mess. Corporate banking law is neither constitutional law nor being a businessman.

  • Thomas

    John, David worked for a time at Pacific Legal Foundation, a public-law advocacy group that deals heavily with constitutional law issues, among others. “Constitutional lawyer” is fairly in his resume.

  • Jack Sonman

    Good job fact checking. McNerney should get his team focused on the truth instead of a smear campaign. And John W, Harmer worked for Constitutional law policy groups in the past, in addition to his corporate work. He certainly has the resume to claim credibility in the constitutional law area. McNerney on the other hand has voted for EVERY SINGLE spending bill proposed by Pelosi, et. al. No wonder he isn’t running on his own record!

  • Dan

    “McNerney’s claims fall considerably short of the truth.” Unable to run on or defend the Obama/Reid/Pelosi agenda which he supported roughly 96% of the time, McNerney instead LIES about Harmer in a hand-handed attempt at character assassination. Beyond shameful.

  • Charlie

    David Harmer is definately a constitutional lawyer. He specialized in the land and water rights of American Citizens in law school. Upon graduation he work on the staff of Senator Orrin Hatch in Washington, defending the Constitution. He has worked and written for three of the leading organizations that focus on defending the Constitution; The Heritage Foundation, The Cato Institute and The Pacific Leagal Foundation. I could go on, but it is quite evident that David Harmer is a very patiotic Consitutional Lawyet and those who create ads for Jerry Mcnerny are very desperate.

  • Jerry

    John, When the unbiased fact-check states “McNerney’s claims fall considerably short of the truth”, and you reply with – OK, but …. and then make another claim that doesn’t stand up to fact-checking, most of us see the same kind of Congressional elitism that has turned off the American public and caused Congress’s ratings to plummet. If you want support or respect, paint an accurate picture.

  • Todd

    Every company has lawyers, whether they are in-house or on a contract basis. Having a solid knowledge of law is a plus in any walk of life. I’ve written Rep. McInerney a couple times about his views on issues and even as form letter replies, his responses give me zero confidence in his leadership for our district. We don’t need rubberstampers in Congress, we need visionaries who know how to fight to get this country back on the right track.

  • John W

    Re all comments refuting my observation that Harmer’s claim to be a constitutional lawyer is a huge stretch. I’m just going by his own three-page resume, which accounts for every month dating from the start of college. Yes, he worked for PLF (for 13 months, 20 years ago, one year out of law school). Work at Heritage (for 5 months, 14 years ago) was related to education, not constitutional law. I did satellite applications research at a NASA-funded think tank straight out of grad school. Doesn’t make me an astronaut.

  • Elizabeth Dionne

    David Harmer worked for the Senate Judiciary Committee (which focuses on judges who, ummm, interpret the constitution), has published a law review article on the 2nd amendment, and has written two books on school choice. Education is frequently the subject of constitutional adjudication and debate. This all gives Harmer SOME credibility in terms of claiming a knowledge of constitutional law. One doesn’t have to be a law professor to claim deep and credible knowledge of constitutional law. (I am an attorney myself and like to think I know something about the subject.) The relevant point here is that Harmer knows a hell of a lot more about the Constitution than does McNerney (who is a nice guy but certainly not the brightest crayon in the box).

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    Oh yeah? Let’s hear Harmer on the Slaughterhouse cases!

  • Not David Harmer

    Elizabeth – McNerney has a PhD in Mathematics, they don’t exactly give those out. Stick to the facts, not ad hominem attacks.

  • Dave R.

    Just like all Demo incumbents in fear of their “political lives”, in typical Demo fashion, they LIE and go on “smearing campaigns”.

    McNerney thinks of himself as a “moderate, which is as far from the truth as you can get. He’s voted for virtually all of Obama’s policies.

    I hope David Harmer puts him in his place: Out of a job , which, BTW, is on our taxpayers nickel!

    OUT WITH LYING INCUMBENTS!! Therein lies the REAL problem.

  • Elwood

    Re: #12

    Won’t you please explain to us how pointing out that McNerdney is not an attorney of any kind constitutes an ad hominem attack?.

    Of course, if one wants to plan a flight to Pluto, I suppose a degree in mathematics would come in handy.

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    Yeah, we need more lawyers in politics!

  • John W

    Re #15

    Yeah, because only somebody with a law degree knows about the Constitution.

  • Brendi

    When a stay at home mom of three, has to babysit my congressmans votes, you know congress is out of control! Jerry McNerneys vote for the takeover of our Health Care system to Socialized Medicine was my tipping point.

    Not only does HarmerforCongress.com have my vote, I am leading a group of moms who are also so sick of the mess that Jerry McNerney has caused in Washington, we are walking precincts with our kids in strollers!

    Go Harmer 2010!

  • Elwood

    Re: #17

    Well, I can’t prove it, but I’m betting someone with a law degree knows more about the constitution than a mathematician.

    Just a hunch.

  • John W

    Re: #18

    Spoken like somebody who has employer-based group insurance and doesn’t have to worry about pre-existing conditions, retroactive policy cancellations, and claims being routinely denied. People who do enjoy employer-based group coverage should not be smug and think they are getting their health care without government assistance. Government subsidizes employer-based insurance to the tune of about $250 billion annually and affords all kinds of consumer protections for people who are so covered. Same for people with Medicare or VA coverage. People who get insurance on their own currently get no such subsidy and few consumer protections. The health care law is mostly about the people who have to buy coverage on their own in the individual market — giving their purchasing power through the private insurance exchanges and giving them protection against the abuses of the individual health insurance industry. I don’t get how that is a “takeover” or “socialized medicine.”


    Oooh mathematics. So McNerney can calculate all the lies he tells I guess. Hopefully he’ll use them to figure out how many people voted yes to BOOT HIM OUT!

    Maybe he should use the mathematics to figure out how his vote on HCR will bankrupt the nation. Oh no, use it to figure out how the FAILED stimulus packages are killing our country and economy.

    If he has a degree in mathematics he sure doesn’t know how to use it.

  • Fred Fnord

    It’s good to come here and listen to all the intelligent people talking constructively about our government.

    It’s funny how many people on the Right go from ‘throw all the lawyers out of Congress, they’re all scum!’ when the lawyers in question are Democrats to ‘hah, he’s not a lawyer, he’s not qualified to be in Congress’ when the lawyer is on the Democrats’ side.

    It’s called ‘sticking to your principles’. And one of the principles of the current Republican party is ‘use any argument to hurt your opponent, whether it makes sense or not’. Self-consistency, and indeed self-examination, is not a problem which these people have in any great degree.

    I’ve met Jerry McNerney. He’s smart, he’s self-consistent, and he’s willing to talk to his constituents, and, more importantly, listen to them. For all of you who don’t foam at the mouth when his name comes up simply because it has a ‘D’ next to it, I highly recommend you go to one of his meet-and-greets and bring up your concerns. You might be surprised by how interested he is in them.

    Oh, and anyone who thinks McNerney is some kind of radical because he has mostly voted for Obama’s agenda? You’re demonstrating to those of us with still-functioning brains that you can’t be taken seriously, because you know nothing at all about politics. Obama is microscopically to the left of Nixon, and that only on certain subjects. (His health care reform plan is actually further towards the right end of the political spectrum than Nixon’s was in most of the important respects. Hah, I bet you didn’t even know Nixon had a health care reform plan. MUST HAVE BEEN A COMMIE, HUH?)

    He’s certainly well to the right of Clinton. Calling him a commie socialist who is DESTROYING AMERICA!!!1!!one! just makes you look dumber than a box full of doorknobs.

    Looks can be deceiving, of course. But that’s not how I’d bet.


  • Michael

    re:22 “(McNerney is) certainly well to the right of Clinton”

    Jerry is well to the left of Bill Clinton according to http://www.ontheissues.org methodical interpretation of his voting and speeches:

    “Jerry is a Populist-Leaning Liberal”, (20% and 80% to the left of center on Social and Economic topics respectively)

    in contrast, “Bill Clinton is a Moderate Liberal”, (20% and 40% to the left of center on Social and Economic topics respectively)

    So Jerry is twice as far to the left on Economic issues as is Bill Clinton.

  • John W

    Jerry McNerney is a Democrat, and it is to be expected that he would see fit to vote with Dems rather than Repubs on most issues. But he does not approach issues from an ideological framework. It’s just not his nature. He didn’t even go anywhere near politics until a few years ago. For better or worse, David Harmer clearly is an ideology-driven movement conservative. That’s evidenced by his previous involvement with Heritage and Pacific Legal Foundation and the way he talks about issues. On health care, for example, McNerney will explain his support for health reform in problem-solving pragmatic terms, including his own personal experience with the issue of pre-existing conditions. David Harmer, on the other hand, will speak more in terms of broad principles — “the free market,” “socialism” etc. McNerney’s involvement with veteran’s affairs is, again, a very pragmatic matter. In the case of the military funding supplement for Afghanistan, McNerney broke ranks with the Bay Area Congressional delegation and voted for the funding, even though he shares the concerns many of us have about the end game in Afghanistan.

  • Mary travers

    I wonder if mr mcnerny has “remembered” if he stood and applauded president calderone of MEXICO after his speech trashing our country!!

  • Ann jacobs

    Correction—some PhD’s and MD’s are “just handed out depending on past oppression/race–UC Irvine cranks out MD degrees to people who scored 20% on the MCAT and D’s in organic chemistry while truly qualified non-minority Applicants are rejected! Libs should be required to have these “outreach” grads care for them! Kanye west’s mom did and so did—-um—Michael Jackson.

  • Elwood

    Re: #22


    What the hell does that mean?

    He consistently votes the party line with Nancy and the Ayrab?