Early on in my campaign I said – quite emphatically – that if voters were looking for the candidate who had raised the most amount of money from special interests they didn’t need to look in my direction. I’ve made it quite clear – this is a people’s campaign, not one that will be driven by powerful lobbyist’s dollars.
Unlike Mike Mulvaney, the interim director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). He told banking executives and lobbyists on Tuesday that trying to sway legislators with campaign contributions was one of the “fundamental underpinnings of our representative democracy.” He wasn’t done. Mulvaney went further, telling banking executives that, as a congressman, he would meet only with lobbyists if they had contributed to his campaign.
Since being appointed to CFPB, Mulvaney has frozen all new investigations and slowed down existing inquiries by requiring employees to produce detailed justifications. He also sharply restricted the bureau’s access to bank data, arguing that its investigations created online security risks. And he has scaled back efforts to go after payday lenders, auto lenders and other financial services companies accused of preying on the vulnerable. Republicans are now attempting to strip the independence of the agency, putting it squarely in control of the Congress and Republican lawmakers who complain it is too aggressive in trying to punish financial firms.
This is not the first time I’ve warned about the corruption money brings to our politics – it won’t be the last. It’s just that in this administration, the influence of campaign dollars is so openly front and center whether through this example or the EPA or HUD or Education or almost every single layer of leadership and department.
It’s become so perverse that Republican candidates across the country feel safe mimicking the administration’s behavior, and it’s getting uglier by the day and week. In multiple GOP races across the country, candidates are employing phrases such as “drain the swamp,” “build the wall,” “rigged system” and even “fake news.”
The question all this raises is whether there is a large swath of GOP voters who are fully prepared to march behind Mr. Trump. Perhaps here in our 8th district? I know there will be opportunities in the weeks and months ahead to debate the issues with my fellow candidates within the DFL, and, hopefully, we’ll have an opportunity to debate Mr. Sandman and Mr. Stauber.
I look forward to those opportunities. If and when they occur, I hope you’ll listen to what we say. Just as importantly, I hope you’ll pay attention to the money that comes into our campaigns. Not always as a sign of strength. Rather, as a sign of what might come of it. So that when we speak of “fundamental underpinnings of our representative democracy” we’re not talking about government only for the highest bidder, but leadership for all Americans regardless of their wealth and ability to finance a political campaign.