Mick Mulvaney’s confession highlights the corrosive influence of money in politics
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With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve.
THE BIG IDEA: Mick Mulvaney said the quiet part out loud.
“We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress,” the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said Tuesday at the American Bankers Association conference in Washington. “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, who represented South Carolina in the House from 2011 until President Trump appointed him as director of the Office of Management and Budget in 2017, told the 1,300 industry executives and lobbyists that they should push lawmakers hard to pursue their shared agenda.
He told the crowd that trying to sway legislators is one of the “fundamental underpinnings of our representative democracy.” For good measure, he insisted that he always made time for his constituents. “If you came from back home and sat in my lobby, I talked to you without exception, regardless of the financial contributions,” Mulvaney said.
To be clear, not all members of Congress operate this way. Many offices take pride in meeting with people no matter how much money they have given or might in the future. But Mulvaney’s comment appears emblematic of a mentality that pervades Trump’s orbit.
Multiple Republicans admitted last fall during the debate over tax cuts that they worried about losing campaign contributions if they didn’t vote for the legislation. “My donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again,’” Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), the first member of Congress to endorse Trump’s presidential campaign, told The Hillin November.
The president himself has repeatedly said that he views politics as transactional. “As a businessman and a very substantial donor to very important people, when you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal in 2015. “As a businessman, I need that.”
He was asked about that quote during a GOP primary debate. “You better believe it,” Trump replied. “I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And you know what? When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them. They are there for me.”