If Taxpayers Don’t Pay, Someone Else Does

Mick Mulvaney’s first TV ads have hit the air, and his main bragging point seems to be that he’s never taken a taxpayer funded trip. When that’s your biggest accomplishment as a Congressman, color me unimpressed.

Taxpayer funded trips may sound wasteful, but most of them are not sending members of Congress to Disneyland and Bora Bora. Instead, they’re fact-finding and diplomatic missions, intended to create overseas markets for our products, bolster alliances, or obtain new insight on important issues. Insight and diplomacy don’t rank highly on Mick Mulvaney’s list of talents, so his disinterest in improving them shouldn’t come as a great surprise.

Here's FDR taking one of those taxpayer-funded trips again.
Here’s FDR taking one of those taxpayer-funded trips again.

The most important reason trips for members of Congress are funded by the people they represent is to ensure that when they do travel, they don’t do it on the tab of special interests or those that would line their campaign coffers. These so-called “junkets” still happen, and Mulvaney hasn’t minded helping himself to them.

Take, for instance, his June 2014 trip to sunny Santa Barbara. With highs averaging 71 degrees that time of year, it’s a lovely place to spend a long weekend. There’s gourmet cuisine, sunshine, sailing, sandy beaches — and more rich people than almost anywhere else in America. Forbes reports that 11 of the 400 richest Americans (all billionaires) live in Santa Barbara, 11 times more than the number of billionaires in the entire state of South Carolina. According to CNNMoney, only three towns in the entire country have a larger percentage of million-dollar homes than Santa Barbara.

Why take a taxpayer-funded trip where you could learn something when you could hang out here?
Why take a taxpayer-funded trip where you could learn something when you could hang out here?

Why was Mulvaney there? Finding facts? Finding wealthy investors who want to bring jobs to South Carolina? Finding new markets for South Carolina products or learning to be a more effective representative?

Nope. Raising campaign cash from lobbyists and the PACs (political action committees) they work for.

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Fundraising firm Gula Graham advertised the presence of Mick Mulvaney and three other members of Congress during their “Santa Barbara Getaway,” June 2-5, 2014. To attend, and get some face time, Gula Graham had a “suggested contribution” to Mulvaney for Congress of $2,500 per PAC or $1,500 per individual. For those attending, they reserved a block of rooms at a Four Seasons Resort, The Biltmore Santa Barbara, “at a special rate of $485 per night (+ taxes & fees).” I’m sure you’re as disappointed as I am to have missed out on that bargain.

It may not be home, but the Four Seasons in Santa Barbara will do for a long weekend.
It may not be home, but the Four Seasons in Santa Barbara will do for a long weekend.
According to TripAdvisor, the spa at the Four Seasons Biltmore Santa Barbara is the best in the country. Hope Mick and his lobbyist friends made time for at least one massage.
According to TripAdvisor, the spa at the Four Seasons Biltmore Santa Barbara is the best in the country. Hope Mick and his lobbyist friends made time for at least one massage.

It doesn’t look like too many individuals forked over $1,500 to hang out with Mr. Mulvaney in the Southern California sunshine: the only $1,500 donation reported in his July 2014 FEC filing came from a man from Rock Hill. Corporate PACs lined up to give $2500 during this time though. There were 18 different donations of exactly $2500 (to say nothing of the many donations of higher and lower amounts) in May and June 2014 from PACs representing the following trade groups and companies:

American Institute of Certified Public Accountants

American Resort Development Association

Association for Advanced Life Underwriting

CME Group, Inc.

Commercial Real Estate Finance Council

Duke Energy Corporation

Exxon Mobil Corporation

Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America

J.P. Morgan Chase

Liberty Mutual Insurance Company

Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company

Morgan Stanley

National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts

National Restaurant Association

Property Casualty Insurers Association of America

Grant Thornton LLP

Title Industry PAC

UBS Americas Inc.

Mulvaney collected more than $114,000 in special interest PAC money in that quarter of 2014 alone, compared to just over $9000 in money from actual people. We don’t know how many lobbyists joined him at the Four Seasons. Hopefully those that did had fun.

Any trip to Santa Barbara is incomplete without taking in a polo match.
Any trip to Santa Barbara is incomplete without taking in a polo match.

Invitations to fundraising junkets like this one are usually closely controlled by the DC firms who get paid to raise campaign cash, so it’s something of a miracle that news about the Santa Barbara Getaway was even leaked out. Mulvaney travels a good deal (he was recently spotted by a friend on a flight from CLT to Dallas wearing some remarkably garish golf pants that Mulvaney called “my pajamas”). If voters aren’t paying for his trips, it’s fair to wonder: who is?

Not For Sale

It seems that Mr. Mulvaney, or at least his staff, has discovered this website. That’s fine, as nothing I say on here is untrue, as they undoubtedly know. While I’ve been contacted by various people who have known Mr. Mulvaney over the years, and offered all manner of rumors, insults, and innuendo, I traffic in facts, I deal with documents, and I report the truth. This is not a gossip site. Should evidence turn up to back one claim or other, I am happy to investigate it and, if it falls under the purview of truth, I’ll put it here.

Their apparent frustration with this site turned up in an unusual way yesterday. First, a company that buys and sells Internet domain names was contacted, and someone attempted to purchase this domain for cash. I declined the rather generous offer. Soon thereafter, a visitor came to the site from a computer operating on the servers of the US House of Representatives, followed by another with the same service provider. This is not the first time the site had been visited from the US House of Representatives, but it is the first time they saw fit to send me a message.

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First they ran a search on the site for the word “FRAN,” apparently looking for references to Mr. Mulvaney’s opponent. They will find nothing here, because this site is not about Mr. Mulvaney’s opponent. He has his own site. This site is about Mr. Mulvaney.

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Finding no incidences of the word “FRAN,” the visitors from the US House of Representatives next searched for a misspelled word (CORAD), then followed it up with the word they were attempting: COWARD. They followed that almost instantly with another search term: CARPETBAGGER. The message was clear (though sending me an email seems easier).

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I am neither a coward nor a carpetbagger. Nor am I easily intimidated. Mr. Mulvaney’s team will not be able to purchase this website, nor will they silence my voice. This is the way democracies work: honest criticism, discussion of facts, and presentation of evidence. Their efforts at intimidation do not speak well of a man who purports to be a leader. Needless to say, I was of the opinion that his leadership qualities were lacking already.

Mick Mulvaney: Mailing It In

While the Federal government plays a huge role in nearly everyone’s life (on April 15 and all year round), there’s really only one government agency most of us are served by every single day: the United States Postal Service.
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The USPS has its issues. Unlike most private (or public) entities, it has been required to fully fund its pension and health care obligations annually since 2006, causing a financial strain that commentators have nearly uniformly called unnecessary. A bipartisan bill aimed at fixing the Post Office’s wobbly finances garnered 230 co-sponsors in 2011, representing more than half the members of the House. It died on the vine. Mick Mulvaney was not among its supporters.

The Post Office’s inability to maintain or expand its services hits residents of York and Lancaster counties particularly hard. The Fort Mill post office was constructed in 1989, when 5,283 people lived in town. Today, nearly three times as many people do. The population of Fort Mill township has similarly grown, from 17,000 in 1990 to more than 36,000 in 2010. Tega Cay’s growth has paralleled Fort Mill’s, from barely 3000 residents in 1990 to nearly 9000 today. Indian Land has continued to grow as well, as US 521 has become a main corridor into Charlotte.

The Fort Mill Post Office. Not seen: thousands of new residents pouring into Fort Mill, Tega Cay, and Indian Land every year.
The Fort Mill Post Office. Not seen: thousands of new residents pouring into Fort Mill, Tega Cay, and Indian Land every year.

Through all of this growth, the little Fort Mill post office continues to serve not only Fort Mill, but also Tega Cay and Indian Land. The employees and letter carries of the Fort Mill post office can only strain to keep up with the growing demand for services, while the residents of York and Lancaster county watch service levels decline. The residents of Indian Land, Mulvaney’s current “home town,” have it particularly rough, with some folks living no less than 13 miles from their post office. It seems some of Mick Mulvaney’s Indian Land neighbors in zip code 29707 have complained to him and not seen any results.

This is particularly hard to stomach considering the Congressman not only lives in an underserved community, but also sits on the Congressional committee and subcommittee that oversees the Post Office!

If you're embarrassed by your performance on the Oversight Committee, think how your constituents must feel. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
If you’re embarrassed by your performance on the Oversight Committee, think how your constituents must feel. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

There was an informative hearing on Postal Service Reform, held before the House Oversight Committee on May 11, 2016. If you know Congressman Mulvaney, you may want to pass along the link to the testimony, since he didn’t actually show up to the hearing. He did find time to be on Fox Business the next day, though.

Mick Mulvaney’s lack of interest in the post office is clear from his home page, which helpfully points out that “the prices for many mail services went up on June 30, 2002.” While true, the price of a stamp has also gone up 8 TIMES since 2002 and went DOWN in April 2016. When was the last time this guy bought a stamp? If it was in June 2002, he didn’t even live in South Carolina yet then.

Mulvaney’s lack of interest in helping his constituents’ access to their local post office doesn’t seem to stem from the fact that he’s out of touch or doesn’t care. Instead, his “small government” politics conflict with the idea of a Federally-run Postal Service (even one that receives no taxpayer money). He’d rather see the Postal Service, like the VA and other vital government services, privatized.

The political action committee of one of the Post Office’s principal competitors, United Parcel Service, donated $1000 ($500 + $500) to Mulvaney’s re-election campaign in 2012. They’re apparently better at finding their allies in Congress than they are at finding your front door.

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A New Dodge Challenger: Imported from Texas

With no less than four Dodge dealerships in his district, you’d think Mick Mulvaney would use his desire for a brand new black sports car as a great chance to support a local business, make a new friend, and shake a few hands.

If you thought that, you’d be wrong.

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The 375 HP Hemi will get you to out of town John Birch Society meetings in a hurry.

Passing over Wilson Chrysler Jeep Dodge in WinnsboroStateline Chrysler Jeep Dodge in Fort Mill, Carolina Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram in Lugoff, and Sumter Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in Sumter, Mulvaney instead told a crowd at the John Birch Society meeting in Columbia this past July that he “bought a car from a friend of mine in Congress.” Referring to him only as “Roger out in Texas,” the seller was Texas Congressman Roger Williams, who is currently being investigated by the House Ethics Committee for using “his position to private benefit himself and a car dealership he owns in Weatherford, Texas,” according to Politico.com. That car dealership, in Mulvaney’s own words, gave him “a pretty good deal.”

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Roger Williams knows better than to look a gift horse in the mouth when a Congressman asks to buy a car and have it shipped to his home 1100 miles away.

In researching Congressman Mulvaney, it’s become clear that getting a good deal for himself and helping out his friends is typically more important to him than helping out his constituents.

Mick Mulvaney for Governor?

Mick Mulvaney for State House

Mick Mulvaney for State Senate

Mick Mulvaney for Congress

Mick Mulvaney for Governor?

Among the many pieces of wisdom imparted on me by my father was his stern warning to be wary of social climbers: “to someone who sees the world as a ladder, everyone else is a step.”

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Perhaps the most worrisome sorts of social climbers are the ones whose behavior is plainly evident to anyone watching but who deny it nonetheless.

In November 2008, Mick Mulvaney conducted an interview with The Lancaster News.

“As for his future political aspirations, Mulvaney said several people told him during his recent campaign that he should run against U.S. Rep. John Spratt for the 5th District Congress seat. 

‘I couldn’t stop laughing,’ Mulvaney said. ‘I’m perfectly happy being in the Senate. So much in politics is timing. Public service is public service and you go where you can be the most effective.’ 

His family has grown roots in the community and he says to run for federal office ‘would mean ripping all that away.’ He said he’s looking forward to staying in the Senate for at least ‘a couple terms’ in order to serve the district.”

“A couple of terms” turned into less than one. South Carolina Senate terms are four years. One year after Mulvaney “couldn’t stop laughing” at the idea of running for another office, just one-quarter of the way through his first term, he filed paperwork to begin his Congressional run and announced it in the press.

Two years after that interview, just halfway through his first term as a South Carolina Senator, he was a Congressman-elect.

Mulvaney was elected to the South Carolina House in 2006 and served one term. He didn’t even make it through a full term in the SC Senate. Perhaps no one should be surprised that he had his eyes on a bigger prize after less than two terms in the United States Congress.

Mick Mulvaney first confirmed his plan to run for governor in 2018 all the way back in June 2014, long enough ago that folks seem to have forgotten that his interest in the job is not just a rumor.

See this piece published in the June 14, 2014 issue of The State in Columbia:

“While a lot can happen between now and 2018, the short answer is, ‘Yes,’ ” Mulvaney said last week, when asked if he was considering the 2018 race for governor.”

Mulvaney backtracked in November 2014, speaking to Bristow Marchant of the Rock Hill Herald, but only slightly. Mulvaney admitted “I’ve had several reporters reach out to me regarding the race for governor in 2018,” but hedged on saying much else: “While it may well be something to consider in the future, for now I have plenty of work to do on issues that are much more pressing.”

In March 2016, fitsnews.com reported “Of all the prospective candidates for governor of South Carolina in 2018, U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney is generally viewed as being among those most likely to run.” They cited “several sources close to the fifth district congressman” who say the announcement would come soon after the 2016 election. In others words, he’ll make his next move right after promising several hundred thousand South Carolinians that he’d represent them in Washington.

Indications that Mick Mulvaney plans to run for governor in 2018 come from many other sources: The Post and Courier, the Statehouse Report blog, even The Washington Post.

It sure seems dishonest for Mick Mulvaney to tell the people of the Fifth Congressional District about his plans for his next term when he knows that as soon as this election is over his attention will be onto another race entirely.

Mick Mulvaney’s Biography

I’ve assembled a lot of information about Mick Mulvaney: his record, his funding, his ideology, but it’s probably best to begin with his biography.

Mick Mulvaney’s official biography includes what would seem to be the basic facts about his life and career. It’s the stuff we all have at our fingertips: where we’re from, what we’ve done, what we do.

The first paragraph checks out. Rep. Mulvaney was, in fact, elected in November 2010 and represents the citizens of the five big towns listed. (He also represents those of us who don’t live in any of those towns, though apparently we don’t rate high enough to get a mention.) No problems there.

The second paragraph notes that “Mick” is “a lifelong Carolinas resident,” though plenty of sources, including his biography on the GOP party page, list that he was born in Alexandria, Virginia, right across the Potomac River from Washington D.C. That’s not the Carolinas. But maybe that’s picky and the family home was in Charlotte and he was born on a vacation to Mount Vernon.

Facts suggest that’s not the case. His younger brother was actually born two years later in Minnesota — so not only were the “Carolinas” (apparently North and South Carolina are the same in Mick Mulvaney’s mind) not his home from birth, they weren’t even the first place his family moved after he was born. (I can’t link from behind the paywall at ancestry.com, but the record is in the Minnesota Birth Index as 1969-MN-052010.) Mick Mulvaney’s father starts to turn up in corporate records in Charlotte in 1975, and his sister was born in Charlotte the following year, so Mick apparently got to Charlotte sometime when he was a little kid. He also spent 4 years after finishing high school at Georgetown University in Washington D.C., near his birthplace in northern Virginia. So it would be accurate to say he’s lived in the Carolinas for most of his life, or since childhood except college, but “lifelong” is a stretch.

And let’s be honest — does living in Chapel Hill (where he lived during law school) or Charlotte and lumping it in as the “Carolinas” somehow make him more of a local? He voted in Charlotte in November 2002 and bought land to build his house in South Carolina at the end of December 2002. According to Lancaster County records, the house wasn’t finished until 2005. Presumably he was still in Charlotte in 2005. He may have even been there later, since he used the address of a home he owned in Charlotte for a campaign donation in 2008, by which time he was already serving in the South Carolina house. A January 2007 donation to the South Carolina Republican Party was made from a residential address in Columbia.

At best, he’s been a South Carolina resident for 11 years, 4 of which he worked in Columbia and 5 and a half of which he’s been in DC. Lifelong resident of the Carolinas, indeed.