The problem isn’t that Mick Mulvaney wasn’t being honest. It’s that he was a little too honest.
Speaking to the American Bankers Association at a conference in Washington on Tuesday, Mulvaney, who is head of the Office of Management and Budget and interim director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, had advice for those gathered: If you want to play, you better pay.
“We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress,” he said, according to The New York Times. “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.” He added, however, “If you came from back home and sat in my lobby, I talked to you without exception, regardless of the financial contributions.”
Mulvaney’s spokesperson defended his remarks, saying his boss was making the point that constituents contacting their representatives was “more important than lobbyists and it’s more important than money.” But Mulvaney was making that point to a large conference of bankers, whom the CFPB ostensibly regulates, and advising them on how best to persuade his former colleagues on Capitol Hill to sharply curtail the powers of the agency he leads. In effect, he was mapping out two paths for purchasing influence: donating directly to legislators, and investing in a grassroots campaign to undermine the CFPB. Persuading Congress to act, he said, is among the “fundamental underpinnings of our representative democracy. And you have to continue to do it.” That’s a message that has one resonance when delivered to a town-hall meeting, and a rather different meaning when offered to a room full of corporate leaders and lobbyists.