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Mulvaney Sinks in the Swamp

“There’s plenty to be upset about when it comes to Mick Mulvaney’s attempts to roll back consumer financial protections: from his appointment as Acting Director to his plan to dismantle the agency as we know it. Unfortunately, he continues to say outrageous and appalling things.”But it seems he is not yet done making distressing headlines.

Mulvaney was in the news once again this week when he rightly drew flak for comments he made during a speech at an American Bankers Association conference happening in Washington, DC. Addressing the crowd of lawyers and bankers, Mulvaney said, “We had a hierarchy in my office, in Congress. If you were a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you were a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.”

This statement has drawn attention not so much because the information in it is surprising, but because we are not used to hearing our politicians admit that they are so easily swayed by money. Most people would agree that lobbying is an essential way to provide information to legislators, but if information is being filtered so that it is only coming from those who are donating to politicians’ campaigns, then it is providing a skewed perspective on what is important to the public.

It’s true that Mulvaney went on to say that he would always meet with constituents, regardless of whether they had given him money. And, spokesperson for Mulvaney claimed that “he was making the point that hearing from people back home is vital to our democratic process.” While this may have been the intention, the message we all heard was that influence can be bought. It is essential that constituents are at the top of the hierarchy, but corporate money should not buy a lobbyist’s way to a close second.

News outlets were quick to pick up on the fact that Mulvaney’s comments went against the “drain the swamp” mantra of Trump’s campaign, and that the hierarchy he describes is the definition of pay-to-play. But, with all the backlash focused only on these few sentences, the rest of Mulvaney’s speech has largely fallen under the radar. Which is probably exactly what Mulvaney would hope for.

Most of Mulvaney’s speech focused on his plans for the future of the CFPB. He assured the audience that he would not, in fact, be burning the Bureau down (“If you’ve seen the building, the building, you couldn’t burn the building down if you tried.”) He also said that he wanted to start referring to the Bureau by its proper name, the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection. This seems like a petty point but, as the New York Times speculated, it could help make the Bureau’s profile less public. Mulvaney also announced his intention to remove public access to the Bureau’s consumer complaints database, a move clearly intended to make the Bureau’s profile less public. The consumer complaint database allows the public to make informed decisions about where to place their trust in the financial industry. Taking that away leaves people more susceptible to illegal practices, thereby undermining the very purpose of the Bureau.

The CFPB (or BCFP, if Mulvaney gets his way) was established in order to ensure that banks, lenders, and other financial companies would be held accountable and treat citizens fairly. Having Mulvaney speak to a crowd of bankers and lenders about his plans to make the Bureau less accessible to the average citizen is blatantly antithetical to the Bureau’s mission.

We’ve suspected for quite some time that Mulvaney practices pay-to-pay. It’s no coincidence that Mulvaney has been giving a helping hand to payday lenders by stopping a rule that would tighten regulations on the loans and ending investigations into multiple lenders. After all, Mulvaney has received almost $63,000 in campaign contributions from payday lenders over the years. It should come as no surprise that the swamp is not being drained, but it is still outrageous to hear the people in charge announce that fact with no sense of shame. Mulvaney has made it clearer than ever that he is not fit to run the CFPB, and that it has fallen on the public to protect the agency that was established to protect us.