CFPB chief's meeting with GOP donors may be illegal, Warren says

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has raised ethical questions about a recent private meeting where acting Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Mick Mulvaney reportedly discussed the midterm elections with Republican donors and party officials.

Warren said Mulvaney's appearance at the closed-door event in New York City on Sept. 8 could violate the Hatch Act, which prohibits executive-branch officials — with some exceptions — from engaging in certain forms of political activity.

At the event, Mulvaney and Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel reportedly discussed GOP challenges in the midterms, including voter antagonism toward President Trump, and mentioned the prospect of Sen, Ted Cruz, R-Texas, possibly losing his re-election bid.

“The report of your meeting with top donors and campaign officials raise new questions about your behavior, and require an explanation,” Warren wrote in a two-page letter sent Wednesday to Mulvaney, who is also director of the Office of Management and Budget. “By custom, top executive branch officials and independent agency heads — financial regulators in particular — steer well clear of campaign- or donor-related activity.”

The Hatch Act states that federal officials may not use their authority to solicit political activity of anyone with business before their agency. This is not the first time Mulvaney has been accused of violating the law. In May, Senate Democrats asked the Federal Reserve's inspector general to investigate comments by Mulvaney, about his meetings with lobbyists when he was a congressman, for possible Hatch Act violations.

Warren said she could find no previous examples of other banking regulators “meeting with top political party officials and campaign donors to provide advice and insight into upcoming elections — and I do not understand how your decision to do so was consistent with your responsibilities either as OMB Director, or as Acting Director of the CFPB.”

Other than news articles about the event, the content of Mulvaney’s remarks and a list of attendees at the event have not been publicly disclosed, Warren wrote.

“The location of the fundraiser raises questions about whether any of the donors are regulated by the CFPB or have business pending before OMB,” she wrote.

Warren asked Mulvaney to respond by Sept. 29 to a list of 17 questions. She asked for a copy of the invitation to the event, a list of all attendees, how Mulvaney traveled to the event, where he stayed, and who paid for those costs. In addition, Warren asked whether any of the attendees were registered lobbyists and if they worked for companies that have business pending before the CFPB or OMB.

"Have you interacted with any of these individuals or their companies — or anyone lobbying on behalf of these companies — in your capacity at OMB or CFPB?" Warren wrote.

The letter also was sent to Henry Kerner, special counsel of the Office of Special Counsel, and Emory A. Rounds, III, the director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics. Last November, former CFPB Director Richard Cordray was cleared by the special counsel's office of Hatch Act violations after Republicans filed a complaint alleging he engaged in campaign activities in his run for governor of Ohio while he headed the CFPB.

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