Mick Mulvaney, the director of the White House’s Office of Budget and Management, created a stir in Washington this week when he said that when he was in Congress he only talked to lobbyists who gave him substantial campaign contributions.
“We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress,” Mulvaney said at an American Bankers Association conference in Washington, D.C. “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.”
“If you came from back home and sat in my lobby, I talked to you without exception, regardless of the financial contributions,” he said.
Mulvaney’s comments are typical of the government-as-business mentality that pervades the Trump presidency and all of Washington in the Trump era.
Last fall many GOP Congressmen admitted that they voted for the misguided tax cut bill because they were worried that they would lose big campaign contributions if they failed to vote for the tax law. “My donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again,’” Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.).
But Mulvaney’s comments go too far even for people hardened to the negative influences of money in our government. In an editorial, the Washington Post had this to say about Mulvaney: “He erected a kind of tollgate for contributions at his House door, in the worst tradition of pay-to-play sleaze.”
They go on to say this to say about the budget director and the president:
“The underlying principle, that politicians are to be bought and sold, has been repeatedly articulated by President Trump, despite his campaign pledge to “drain the swamp” of special interests in Washington. Mr. Mulvaney’s confession parallels precisely the mind-set of the president. “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,” Mr. Trump told the Wall Street Journal in 2015. “As a businessman, I need that.” Later that year, he elaborated: “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.”
“Congress ought to face up to a challenge of campaign finance reform it has long neglected. At the very least, Congress should eliminate the loopholes that allow rivers of campaign cash to flow as dark money, the origins secret from the public. They could call it the Mick Mulvaney Open Door Act.”
The Washington Post editorial has hit on the real problem in Washington. We will never do away with the influences of money, but in a democracy the people have a right to know who is paying how much money to which government officials.
What we have now is a government run in secret, funded by dark money. This is the biggest threat to American democracy, and this has also led us to the brink of the crisis that our country is in right now. We need a new government and we need new rules for how government operates if government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” is to survive.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.