The line about President Donald Trump and his retinue saying the quiet part loud is by now so familiar that it’s lost practically all shock value. In one sense it’s clarifying that the Republicans charged with leading American political institutions continuously make plain their disdain for those very institutions. But the sheer repetition of the message also risks numbing the rest of us to the breathtaking cynicism driving it.
Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget chief and interim head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has long been at the forefront of sprucing up unsavory behavior with polite language. And on Tuesday, he told some of his friends in the financial sector—the very industry the CFPB is supposed to hold in check—to keep throwing money at lawmakers who may help them pursue their agendas.
“We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress,” Mr. Mulvaney, a former Republican lawmaker from South Carolina, told 1,300 bankers and lending industry officials at an 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.”
At the top of the hierarchy, he added, were his constituents. “If you came from back home and sat in my lobby, I talked to you without exception, regardless of the financial contributions,” said Mr. Mulvaney, who received nearly $63,000 from payday lenders for his congressional campaigns.
I’m glad constituents—those poor saps with no money to burn on political contributions—warranted an aside. Mulvaney’s game requires at least a razor-thin veneer of good faith.
Sen. Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, called out Mulvaney soon after the report was published:
But Mulvaney’s remarks are essentially par for the course. Since Trump appointed him as head of the CFPB in November, he has attempted to defund the agency, cut down on enforcement actions against financial institutions, considered limiting access to its database of complaints against banks, and even asked the Associated Press to start referring to it by a different name.
He is helping destroy an agency the Republican donor class detests from the inside, all while signaling to that same donor class to keep the money coming in. Mulvaney isn’t just saying the quiet part out loud, but essentially holding up a sign that conveys his message through flashing, neon lights.