Working with a Legend

By Mike Litt
Consumer Campaigns Director, U.S. PIRG

Today, U.S. PIRG’s Consumer Program Director, Ed Mierzwinski was named by The Hill as one of the top grassroots lobbyists in the country for the seventh year in a row. Here are my reflections on working with a legend.

As the Hill notes, “the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau came in part due to the advocacy of Mierzwinski, who is a staunch advocate for the government action against predatory financial practices.”

After 10 years of engaging the grassroots on elections and issue campaigns ranging from local to presidential races and the passage of the Affordable Care Act to clean energy policy in Texas and Nevada, I knew I wanted to spend time in DC working with a national advocacy organization.

Two years ago, I was weighing my options among various worthwhile issues and groups when I started reading Senator Elizabeth Warren’s memoir, A Fighting Chance. I was gripped by Sen. Warren’s account of how as a Harvard professor she worked alongside advocates to make her idea for a consumer financial watchdog a reality – and when I read her shout-out to Ed and U.S. PIRG for their part in making it happen, I said out loud to myself, “I want to work with that man.” 

A few months later during my first week of actually working with Ed, I was at a data collection forum where I introduced myself to Zixta Martinez, the CFPB’s Associate Director for External Affairs. She was one of several people to tell me I was working with a legend, so I replied that I knew this. With my hand still in hers, she squeezed harder, looked me in the eyes and said, “No, you don’t understand, you really are.” 

Every day I realize what working with a legend really means. Behind the recognition he receives by everybody I work with in the advocacy community is a legacy of consumer protections enacted over four decades of dedicated work on behalf of millions of consumers.

Ed told me just the other day that he dreamed of an agency with the CFPB’s mission when he was in his early twenties and passionately worked for it for the next forty years. In addition to his role as U.S. PIRG’s Consumer Program Director in establishing the CFPB, Ed has his thumbprints on free annual credit reports, the ability for consumers to freeze their credit files to prevent id theft, recalls of hazardous toys. This just scratched the surface on a lifetime of work on issues including credit cards, credit reports, privacy, identity theft, banking and financial services, as well as issues ranging from product safety and consumer legal rights to airline passenger rights.

In just the last month, Ed’s presence has been felt in Congressional hearings and national media, including on NPR as he took Wells Fargo’s executives to task for “a rotten barrel,” talking about credit unions in the New York Times, and holding big Wall Street banks accountable on NBC.

Congratulations Ed!

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