White House budget czar Mick Mulvaney told banking executives that while he was serving in congress before joining the Trump administration, he enacted a pay-to-play scheme for lobbyists looking to meet with him. “We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress. If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you,” Mulvaney explained to the 1,300 banking industry officials at the American Bankers Association conference. “If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.”
This alarming anecdote came as part of a larger call by Mulvaney encouraging banks to aggressively pursue their agenda with lawmakers. The comments raise a number of pretty clear cut ethical, much less legal issues, one of which is that Mulvaney currently presides over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as the interim director of the very body that’s supposed to protect individuals from unseemly (and illegal) banking and lending schemes. Mulvaney’s comments Tuesday laid bare the conflicts of interest present in his running of the Obama-era financial regulator into the ground, while also raising obvious questions about his time as a legislator. The Trump administration generally, and Mulvaney specifically, have not done much to hide their disdain for the consumer protection mandate given the CFPB in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and have intermittently worked to roll back its authority where possible and sabotage it elsewhere.