Mick Mulvaney, the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), said Wednesday that the agency is in the process of canceling a contract with a PR firm that has worked for high-profile Democratic campaigns.
GMMB, a powerful Democratic media consulting firm, worked on both of Barack Obama's presidential campaigns and was also a massive ad buyer for Hillary Clinton's failed 2016 campaign. During the Obama administration, the CFPB, a federal agency responsible for certain regulation in the financial sector, hired GMMB to do marketing for it, but Mulvaney said he is ending the agreement.
"We are in the process of canceling that contract," Mulvaney told Rep. Warren Davidson (R., Ohio) during a congressional hearing.
"Do you feel that the American people were getting good value for the $43 million that the CFPB was spending with GMMB?" Davidson asked.
"If I thought I were getting good value for my $43 million, I would not have sought to cancel the contract," Mulvaney replied.
Davidson expressed concern about the culture at CFPB being "hyper-partisan" in the past, and he said paying for a PR firm seems "outside the scope of the statute" for the agency. He asked Mulvaney why a nonpartisan agency would need to spend money on a PR firm, which led Mulvaney to explain why he wants to get out of the contract.
"I don't think our statutory mission was being served," he said. "I'm not sure why we have the advertise—the SEC [Securities and Exchange Commission] does not advertise that it exists. The FDIC [Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation] does not advertise that it exists."
Mulvaney, who also serves as White House budget director, granted that a newly created agency may have some argument for working with a PR firm, but he said it made no sense for such a line item to be increasing.
Mulvaney added that the scope of the statute for the CFPB is so broad that it permits the director a "tremendous amount of discretion" to hire organizations to do marketing. He said Congress should consider how much power the CFPB has to hire partisan firms like GMMB in the first place.
"This is particularly aimed at my colleagues across the aisle: That $242 million that I spent on the building, I could take that and hire Breitbart. I could take that and hire the Drudge Report to do marketing that I like for the bureau," he said. "Not going to do it, because it's the wrong thing to do, but I have that kind of flexibility."