Government Watchdog Calls on Congress to Investigate OMB Director Mick Mulvaney for Violating Federal Law as Temporary CFPB Director

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 29, 2017

Contact: Daniel Stevens, dstevens@campaignforaccountability.org, 202.780.5750

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (“CfA”), a government watchdog group focused on public accountability, called on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to investigate whether Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) Director Mick Mulvaney violated the Anti-deficiency Act by directing OMB staff to perform work for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”).

Read the complaint here.

CfA Executive Director Daniel Stevens said, “Whoever is running the CFPB, federal laws still apply. The Anti-deficiency act requires federal officials to spend taxpayer funds only for their appropriated purpose.That means OMB staff can’t handle CFPB work.  Congress should investigate whether Director Mulvaney is violating federal law by trying to run the CFPB out of his OMB office.”

On November 24, 2017, Richard Cordray resigned as Director of the CFPB. Before leaving office, Mr. Cordray appointed Leandra English to lead the bureau.  Soon after learning of Mr. Cordray’s departure, President Trump rushed to name OMB Director Mick Mulvaney to serve as acting director of the CFPB until a permanent replacement could be confirmed by the Senate.   Following Mr. Mulvaney’s appointment, Ms. English filed a lawsuit in the District of Columbia U.S. District Court contesting Mr. Mulvaney’s appointment.   Both Ms. English and Mr. Mulvaney are asserting control, leading to confusion as to who is really in charge of the CFPB.  The District Court ruled in favor of President Trump, but Ms. English is appealing the decision.

On November 27, 2017, Peter Schroeder of Reuters reported that CFPB press staff were directing reporters to contact OMB press staff for inquiries about the CFPB.  Similarly, National Public Radio reported that CFPB press inquiries were being directed to OMB Communications Director John Czwartacki, who works for Mr. Mulvaney.  Given that Mr. Mulvaney is now trying to wear two hats, he also may be relying on other OMB staff members to assist him with CFPB business.

The Anti-deficiency Act limits the ability of federal agencies to spend and obligate money.  The law states that government officials may not spend government money that has not been authorized by Congress.  Federal employees can violate the law by making an expenditure for which no appropriation was authorized.  Government officials who knowingly and willfully violate the act can be fined up to $5,000 and imprisoned for two years.

Mr. Mulvaney appears to have violated the act by redirecting CFPB press inquiries to OMB staff.  Additionally, if other OMB staff are working on CFPB matters, it may constitute a violation of the Anti-deficiency Act.  Mr. Mulvaney, as the head of OMB, is required to report Anti-deficiency Act violations to the president and Congress, and to forward reports to the Comptroller General.  It does not appear, Mr. Mulvaney has self-reported any such violations.

“While this may seem like a minor matter it is an example of the administration usurping a congressional prerogative.   Congress must remain vigilant in holding the executive branch accountable.  Both the House and Senate should investigate and hold Director Mulvaney accountable.”

Campaign for Accountability is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, nonpartisan watchdog organization that uses research, litigation and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.