A Republican congressman said at a town hall that it was “bullcrap” that his constituents paid his salary, because he had paid enough federal taxes to have effectively paid his own way.
Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) made that claim, and a similar one about effectively paying for his own health care, in two town hall events, recordings of which were later posted online.
“You said you pay for me to do this,” he said in one recorded exchange, posted online Monday. “Bull crap, I paid for myself. I paid enough taxes before I ever got here and continue to through my company to pay my own salary. This is a service. No one here pays me to do it. I do it as an honor and a service.”
“I’m just saying, this is a service for me, not a career, and I thank God this isn’t how I make a living,” he added upon protest from attendees.
One constituent demanded that Mullin “give up the $178,000 then,” presumably referring to the salary for members of Congress and senators, which is $174,000.
“I have before, I’ve actually paid it back,” Mullin responded.
The congressman’s communications director, Amy Lawrence, has not responded to TPM’s request to confirm that Mullin actually refuses a congressional salary, or otherwise pays it back in some way.
Lawrence said in a statement to the Tulsa World that “the congressman is referencing the federal taxes that he and his businesses have paid to the government over the years, prior to his being in office. Like all business owners, Congressman Mullin pays his taxes, which contribute to congressional salaries.”
“The congressman reiterates in the video that his work as the representative of the Second District of Oklahoma is a service,” she continued. “His aspiration is to be a career legislator and not a career politician. He is not, nor does he ever aspire to be, a career politician. His priority will always be to serve his constituents to the best of his ability.”
In another town hall exchange, posted online Tuesday, Mullin told a constituent: “You don’t pay for my health insurance. You never have paid for my health insurance. I pay for myself.”
“Who pays your salary?” someone asks.
“Me, I have self-employed,” he responded. “And I’ve been self-employed, and I’ve paid more taxes inside my own company and personally than I’ll ever receive from being in Congress. I pay own, and I pay my own insurance.”
On Tuesday, Mullin cancelled a town hall planned for the same night, citing disagreements with the planned venue over “our protocols that guaranteed the safety of everyone.” He pledged to reschedule the event.
In 2014, the Washington Post reported, Mullin received some scrutiny from the Office of Congressional Ethics for his continuing to advertise for and serve as an officer or on the board of Mullin Plumbing, Inc., and related companies while he served in Congress. An OCE report found that Mullin received $600,000 from the companies in income in 2013.
The House Ethics Committee did not establish a special committee to investigate the allegations, the Post reported. Mullin’s lawyer said at the time that the report contained “entirely meritless allegations,” and that the income Mullin received was through distributions from those businesses, rather than earned or personally received income, and that other services were subject to an exemption for family businesses.