Mick Mulvaney Is Our Duke Of The Week

“We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress,” Mick Mulvaney, the acting head of an agency that regulates banking told a room full of bankers this week. “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.”

Mulvaney, of course, is the man who is attempting an about-face for the agency he helms, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. That includes rebranding the consumer watchdog by scrambling the letters in its name (Mulvaney suggests “BCFP”) and ending its practice of logging consumer complaints.

As a former member of Congress from South Carolina, Mulvaney’s campaigns raised at least half a million dollars from the investment and banking industries, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. He is now overseeing the agency tasked with keeping these same industries in check. The New York Times noted that he received $63,000 from payday lenders alone, an industry that, under Mulvaney’s predecessor Richard Cordray — now a Democratic candidate for the governor of Ohio — the industry cracked down on for its predatory practices. Mulvaney famously called the CFPB a “sick, sad joke” while it was under Cordray’s stewardship.

Following his speech to the American Bankers Association, Mulvaney’s spokesperson claimed that his words had been misinterpreted, noting that Mulvaney also said he would listen to his constituents regardless of whether they donated. His money-talks “hierarchy” only applied to lobbyists.

Nonetheless, his honesty provoked outrage. Some Democrats called for him to step down. “Let’s call it what it is: corruption,” wrote the Washington Post’s ostensibly conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin.

What Mulvaney laid bare, of course, doesn’t even rise to the level of an open secret. Members of Congress can spend up to half their time “dialing for dollars,” soliciting donations like these to fund their reelection efforts. In return, they have to offer something. Usually, that something is access. This is the sort of thing the Supreme Court acknowledged and affirmed with its 2010 Citizens United decision. As election law expert Rick Hasen notes, Justice Kennedy explicitly wrote that “ingratiation and access, in any event, are not corruption.”

So by the Supreme Court’s definition, Mulvaney did not admit to anything corrupt. Mulvaney went further. Lobbyists’ efforts to sway him with donations were, in fact, one of the “fundamental underpinnings of our representative democracy,” he said in his speech. “And you have to continue to do it.”

It may not be corruption. But it also doesn’t seem on message for an administration that promised a fully drained swamp.

For saying the quiet part loud, Mick Mulvaney is our Duke of the Week.

Dear Reader,

When we asked recently what makes TPM different from other outlets, readers cited factors like honesty, curiosity, transparency, and our vibrant community. They also pointed to our ability to report on important stories and trends long before they are picked up by mainstream outlets; our ability to contextualize information within the arc of history; and our focus on the real-world consequences of the news.

Our unique approach to reporting and presenting the news, however, wouldn’t be possible without our readers’ support. That’s not just marketing speak, it’s true: our work would literally not be possible without readers deciding to become members. Not only does member support account for more than 80% of TPM’s revenue, our members have helped us build an engaged and informed community. Many of our best stories were born from reader tips and valuable member feedback.

We do what other news outlets can’t or won’t do because our members’ support gives us real independence.

If you enjoy reading TPM and value what we do, become a member today.

Latest News
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Investigations Desk:
Director of Audience:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: