Senator Elizabeth Warren is asking a pointed question about Mick Mulvaney's assertion that when he was in Congress he gave preferential treatment to lobbyists who donated money to his political campaigns.
Now that the former GOP lawmaker runs the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a regulator meant to protect borrowers from predatory lending, is he favoring the same lobbyists?
"Almost every one of your major decisions at the CFPB has fulfilled a request of a lobbying organization that has donated tens of thousands of dollars to your political campaigns," Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, wrote in an April 26 letter to Mulvaney. "The public deserves to know whether this is a coincidence or is a reflection of the same kind of 'hierarchy' you created when you ran your congressional office."
Warren joins a chorus of lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle who have criticized Mulvaney over comments he made this week at a conference held in Washington by a banking lobbying group.
Speaking at an American Bankers Association event, he said that when he represented South Carolina in Congress, he refused to meet with lobbyists who didn't give him money. Mulvaney, who is now President Trump's budget director and acting head of the CFPB, said that his first priority as a lawmaker was listening to the concerns of constituents from his home state.
"I'm going to put my old congressional hat on for a second," Mulvaney said at the ABA conference. "We had a hierarchy in our office in Congress. If you are a lobbyist that never gave us money, I didn't talk to you. If you're a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you. If you came from back home and sat in my lobby, I talked to you without exception — regardless of the financial contributions."
CFPB officials said that the agency has received Warren's letter and is reviewing it.
Warren also wrote to the CFPB's ethics official, asking what she is doing to ensure that Mulvaney's work is appropriate, and what issues he and his staff have recused themselves from since joining the regulator in November.
The state of the watchdog is of particular concern to Warren, the financial industry's loudest critic in Congress. She conceived of the regulator and has constantly defended it among a barrage of GOP complaints that its director has too much power and that it lacks accountability to Congress.
When he was in Congress, Mulvaney was a vocal opponent of the CFPB. Now that he runs it, he has said that he intends to uphold the rule of law.
Mulvaney also has said that if Warren and Democrats have been frustrated with his lack of responsiveness to their questions about his leadership of the agency, they have only themselves to blame. He argues Democrats intentionally set it up in a way that limits Congress' authority over the agency.