Payday Industry Lobbyist’s Close Relationship with Mulvaney Raises Questions of Improper Influence in CFPB’s Payday Rulemaking

Washington D.C. – Consumer watchdog group Allied Progress, a project of Accountable.US, called on CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger to publicly divulge the full extent of the influence Al Simpson, a top payday industry lobbyist and former chief-of-staff to then-Congressman Mick Mulvaney, has had over the Bureau’s payday rulemaking process. The challenge follows Washington Post’s new reporting that Simpson met with former CFPB Acting Director “repeatedly” while working as a highly paid registered lobbyist for one of the largest payday lenders in the country, Advance Financial. According to the Post, “Simpson appeared on Mulvaney’s calendars more frequently than anyone who is not a current government official over a [four]-month period in 2017.” He’s been to OMB at least fifteen times since becoming a lobbyist for Advance Financial.

The CEO of Advance Financial, Mike Hodges, was recently caught on tape bragging that the millions of dollars he helped raise for Donald Trump’s reelection campaign had given him pull with the administration and that he had been led to believe bringing in new payday industry donors would result in a final CFPB payday lending rule that favors the industry financially. The Trump CFPB rolled out its proposal in February to permanently repeal a crucial protection against the payday loan debt trap, the ability-to-repay standard. Director Kraninger admitted in March that this roll back would pad payday loan industry profits by “$7.3 to $7.7 billion” annually at the expense of vulnerable communities.

“The payday industry knows there’s no popular support for their predatory business model, so Advance Financial hired a lobbyist with one degree of separation from the President to make their case,” said Derek Martin, Director of Allied Progress. “Throw in the millions of dollars they’ve raised for Trump’s campaign, and the mystery may be solved why this administration is working to enrich an industry best known for ruining financial lives. The unbridled swampiness of it all calls into question whether the payday rulemaking process has been corrupted beyond repair. Consumers deserve to know: Did any improper influence lead to Directors Kraninger and Mulvaney’s decision to make a top priority out of loosening rules for Trump’s payday industry donors?” 

The White House denied to the Washington Post that Simpson ever lobbied now acting White House Chief of Staff Mulvaney in any of his official roles.

“Are we really expected to believe Mr. Simpson never talked shop during any of his frequent meetings with his old boss while he was being paid $350,000 to specifically lobby the administration on a rule Mulvaney could influence?” added Martin. “Getting paid to do nothing might cut it on Capitol Hill, but corporate clients generally demand a return on their investments.” 

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

Advance Financial Chairman Mike Hodges Has Paid Mick Mulvaney’s Former Chief Of Staff $350,000 To Allegedly *NOT* Lobby His Former Boss…

Mike Hodges, CEO Of Payday Lender Advance Financial, Has Admitted Publicly That He Helps Raise Money For The President So He Can Maintain Access To White House Officials.

Mike Hodges, CEO Of Payday Lender Advance America, Told His Fellow Payday Executives That Giving Money To President Trump’s Campaign Would Enable Him To Maintain Access To White House Officials.

Michael Hodges Told Fellow Payday Lenders That “Industry Contributions To The President’s Reelection Campaign Could Be Leveraged To Gain Access To The Trump Administration.” “Michael Hodges told fellow payday lenders recently that industry contributions to the president’s reelection campaign could be leveraged to gain access to the Trump administration. ‘Every dollar amount, no matter how small or large it is’ is important, Hodges, founder of Advance Financial, one of the country’s largest payday lenders, said during a 48-minute webcast, obtained by The Washington Post.” [Renae Merle, “Payday lenders discussed raising money for Trump’s campaign to fend off regulation, audio reveals,” The Washington Post, 10/29/19]

  • Hodges Claimed That Large Donations To The Republican National Committee Would Afford Him Meetings At The White House. “‘For example, I’ve gone to Ronna McDaniel and said, ‘Ronna, I need help on something,’ Hodges said, referring to the chair of the Republican National Committee. ‘She’s been able to call over to the White House and say, ‘Hey, we have one of our large givers. They need an audience. … They need to be heard and you need to listen to them.’ So that’s why it’s important.’” [Renae Merle, “Payday lenders discussed raising money for Trump’s campaign to fend off regulation, audio reveals,” The Washington Post, 10/29/19]

Hodges Said That The More Money He Raises, The More “Clout” He Has To Speak To The Administration And Make Sure They Listen. “During the webinar, Hodges explained why such fundraisers were important. When money comes in that way “that raises the clout of that fundraiser so that when you go and speak to the administration through the campaign, they will listen.” [Renae Merle, “Payday lenders discussed raising money for Trump’s campaign to fend off regulation, audio reveals,” The Washington Post, 10/29/19]

Advance Financial Chairman Mike Hodges Told The Washington Post “I Haven’t Lobbied The Administration’”—Yet His Company Has Paid $350,000 To Hire Mick Mulvaney’s Former Chief Of Staff To Lobby The White House On The Payday Lending Rule And CFPB Issues.

Advance Financial Chairman Mike Hodges Claimed, “‘When I Am Talking About Access, I Am Not Talking About The Administration. I Haven’t Lobbied The Administration’” As He Tried To Dismiss A Report That He Discussed Buying Access To Trump With Political Money.

On October 29, 2019, The Washington Post Reported That Mike Hodges, Chairman Of Payday Lender Advance Financial, “Told Fellow Payday Lenders Recently That Industry Contributions To The President’s Reelection Campaign Could Be Leveraged To Gain Access To The Trump Administration.” On October 29, 2019, The Washington Post Reported “Billing himself as one of President Trump’s top fundraisers, Michael Hodges told fellow payday lenders recently that industry contributions to the president’s reelection campaign could be leveraged to gain access to the Trump administration. ‘Every dollar amount, no matter how small or large it is’ is important, Hodges, founder of Advance Financial, one of the country’s largest payday lenders, said during a 48-minute webcast, obtained by The Washington Post.” [Renae Merle, “Payday lenders discussed raising money for Trump’s campaign to fend off regulation, audio reveals,” The Washington Post, 10/29/19]

Advance Financial Chairman Mike Hodges Told The Washington Post, “‘When I Am Talking About Access, I Am Not Talking About The Administration. I Haven’t Lobbied The Administration,’” Claiming His Support For Trump “Is Not Connected To Pushing Any Specific Industry Agenda.” “‘When I am talking about access, I am not talking about the administration. I haven’t lobbied the administration,’ he said in an interview. He said his support of the president is not connected to pushing any specific industry agenda.” [Renae Merle, “Payday lenders discussed raising money for Trump’s campaign to fend off regulation, audio reveals,” The Washington Post, 10/29/19]

Advance Financial Has Hired Mick Mulvaney’s Former Chief Of Staff To Lobby The White House’s Office Of Administration On “The CFPB Small Dollar Rule”—That Office Is Currently Overseen By Mick Mulvaney.

In The Third Quarter Of 2019, Harpeth Financial Services Paid Mercury Public Affairs, LLC $50,000 To Lobby The “Office Of Administration” On The “CFPB Small Dollar Rule.” [Mercury Public Affairs, LLC LD-2 Disclosure Form, U.S. Senate Lobbying Disclosure Database, 10/03/19]

The Registered Lobbyist In This Disclosure Was Al Simpson, Mick Mulvaney’s Chief Of Staff From 2011 To 2017. The Lobbyist Was Al Simpson, Disclosed As “2011-2017 COS [Chief of Staff] REP Mick Mulvaney US Representative.” [Mercury Public Affairs, LLC LD-2 Disclosure Form, U.S. Senate Lobbying Disclosure Database, 04/11/19]

Al Simpson Became Mick Mulvaney’s Chief Of Staff In January 2011 Before Becoming A Partner And Managing Director Of Mercury Public Affairs In February 2017. [Linkedin Profile for Al Simpson, accessed 10/29/19]

The Office Of Administration Is One Of The Offices “Overseen By The White House Chief Of Staff.” “Overseen by the White House Chief of Staff, the EOP has traditionally been home to many of the President’s closest advisors.” [“Executive Office of the President,” The Obama White House Archive, accessed 10/29/19]

The Office Of Administration Provides “Administrative Support And Business Services To All Components Within The Executive Office Of The President.” “The Office of Administration has seven offices that provide comprehensive administrative support and business services to all components within the Executive Office of the President.” [“About the Office of Administration,” The Obama White House Archive, accessed 10/29/19]

Advance Financial Has Paid $350,000 To Have Mick Mulvaney’s Former Chief Of Staff Lobby On “The Small Dollar Rule” And CFPB Issues Through Nine Consecutive Quarters Since 2017. 

In The Third Quarter Of 2019, Harpeth Financial Services Hired Al Simpson And Mercury Public Affairs, LLC For $50,000 To Lobby The “Office Of Administration” On The “CFPB Small Dollar Rule.” [Mercury Public Affairs, LLC LD-2 Disclosure Form, U.S. Senate Lobbying Disclosure Database, 10/03/19]

In The Second Quarter Of 2019, Harpeth Financial Services Hired Al Simpson Of Mercury Public Affairs, LLC For $50,000 To Lobby The “Office Of Administration” On The “CFPB Small Dollar Rule.” [Mercury Public Affairs, LLC LD-2 Disclosure Form, U.S. Senate Lobbying Disclosure Database, 07/17/19]

In The First Quarter Of 2019, Harpeth Financial Services Hired Al Simpson Of Mercury Public Affairs, LLC For $50,000 To Lobby The “Office Of Administration” On The “CFPB Small Dollar Rule.” [Mercury Public Affairs, LLC LD-2 Disclosure Form, U.S. Senate Lobbying Disclosure Database, 04/11/19]

In The Fourth Quarter Of 2018, Harpeth Financial Services Hired Al Simpson And Mercury Public Affairs, LLC For $50,000 To Lobby The “Office Of Administration” On The “CFPB Small Dollar Rule.” [Mercury Public Affairs, LLC LD-2 Disclosure Form, U.S. Senate Lobbying Disclosure Database, 01/18/19]

In The Third Quarter Of 2018, Harpeth Financial Services Hired Al Simpson And Mercury Public Affairs, LLC For $50,000 To Lobby The “Office Of Administration” On The “CFPB Small Dollar Rule.” [Mercury Public Affairs, LLC LD-2 Disclosure Form, U.S. Senate Lobbying Disclosure Database, 10/16/18]

In The Second Quarter Of 2018, Harpeth Financial Services Hired Al Simpson And Mercury Public Affairs, LLC For $30,000 To Lobby The “Office Of Administration” On The “CFPB Small Dollar Rule.” [Mercury Public Affairs, LLC LD-2 Disclosure Form, U.S. Senate Lobbying Disclosure Database, 07/19/18]

In The First Quarter Of 2018, Harpeth Financial Services Hired Al Simpson And Mercury Public Affairs, LLC For $30,000 To Lobby The “Office Of Administration” On The “CFPB Small Dollar Rule.” [Mercury Public Affairs, LLC LD-2 Disclosure Form, U.S. Senate Lobbying Disclosure Database, 04/18/18]

In The Fourth Quarter Of 2017, Harpeth Financial Services Hired Al Simpson And Mercury Public Affairs, LLC For $30,000 To Lobby The “Office Of Administration” On The “CFPB Small Dollar Rule.” [Mercury Public Affairs, LLC LD-2 Disclosure Form, U.S. Senate Lobbying Disclosure Database, 01/19/18]

In The Third Quarter Of 2017, Harpeth Financial Services Hired Al Simpson And Mercury Public Affairs, LLC For $10,000 To Lobby The “Office Of Administration” On The “CFPB Reform.” [Mercury Public Affairs, LLC LD-2 Disclosure Form, U.S. Senate Lobbying Disclosure Database, 07/23/18]

During His Time As A Lobbyist For Harpeth Financial, Al Simpson Has Had At Least Fifteen Meetings At The White House, Where His Former Boss and Once-Acting CFPB Director Mick Mulvaney Works.

According to records released by the Office Of Management And Budget, Al Simpson attended meetings at the White House At Least Fifteen Times Between October 2017 – September 2019.

Dates Al Simpson Went To OMB
10/05/2017
11/14/2017
11/14/2017
04/11/2018
04/11/2018
06/21/2019
06/19/2018
09/06/2018
09/10/2018
09/24/2018
10/01/2018
10/02/2018
12/03/2018
01/16/2019
01/23/2019

Mick Mulvaney Has Had Several Meetings With Payday Lobbyist Al Simpson – But The Trump Administration Claims Mulvaney Was Never Lobbied During These Meetings, And That They Were “‘Solely For Social Purposes.’”

Mick Mulvaney Has Had Numerous Meetings With Al Simpson, A Payday Lending Lobbyist Who Also Served As Mulvaney’s Chief Of Staff In Congress.

On November 20, 2019, The Washington Post  Reported That Since Joining The Trump Administration, Mick Mulvaney Has Had Numerous Meetings With Al Simpson, His Former Chief Of Staff Who Now Serves As A “Key Lobbyist For One Of The Country’s Largest Payday Lenders.” “Over the past 2½ years, Mick Mulvaney’s former chief of staff has been a key lobbyist for one of the country’s largest payday lenders, giving the industry access to the White House at a time it is fighting to roll back industry regulations. During that time, Al Simpson has met repeatedly with Mulvaney, whom he worked for on Capitol Hill until 2017. They have had dinner several times, and Simpson has been a frequent visitor to the Office of Management and Budget, according to public records.” [Renae Merle, “Once Mulvaney’s chief of staff, payday lobbyist enjoys frequent access to his old boss,” The Washington Post, 11/20/19]

Al Simpson Has Lobbied On Behalf Of Advance Financial, A Payday Lender Founded By Mike Hodges, “A Major Fundraiser And Contributor To President Trump’s Campaign” Who Has “Voiced The Importance Of Having Close Ties To The Trump Administration” In An Industry Webinar. “Meanwhile, Simpson has been lobbying Congress and the Office of Administration on behalf of Tennessee-based Advance Financial, which was founded by Mike Hodges, a major fundraiser and contributor to President Trump’s campaign. Hodges recently told industry colleagues in a webinar first obtained by The Washington Post of the importance of having close ties to the Trump administration.” [Renae Merle, “Once Mulvaney’s chief of staff, payday lobbyist enjoys frequent access to his old boss,” The Washington Post, 11/20/19]

The Trump Administration Claims Al Simpson Never Lobbied Mick Mulvaney Despite Visiting The Office Of Management And Budget (OMB) At Least 11 Times And Appearing On Mulvaney’s Calendars “More Frequently Than Anyone Who Is Not A Current Government Official Over A Seven-Month Period In 2017” – The Administration Alleges These Meetings Were “‘Solely For Social Purposes.’”

The Trump Administration Claims That Al Simpson Never Lobbied Mick Mulvaney And That All Meetings Were “‘Solely For Social Purposes.’” “According to a White House official, Simpson has never lobbied his former boss. ‘Al Simpson is one of Mick Mulvaney’s oldest and closest friends. When Simpson has visited Mick at the White House it has been solely for social purposes. Not once has Simpson lobbied Mick in any of his official roles, whether at OMB, CFPB, or as White House chief of staff,’ the official said.” [Renae Merle, “Once Mulvaney’s chief of staff, payday lobbyist enjoys frequent access to his old boss,” The Washington Post, 11/20/19] 

This Is Despite Al Simpson Having At Least 11 Meetings At OMB And Appearing On Mulvaney’s Calendars “More Frequently Than Anyone Who Is Not A Current Government Official Over A Seven-Month Period In 2017.” “Since Simpson became a lobbyist for Mercury Public Affairs, he has had dinner with Mulvaney at least three times, including dining at a seafood restaurant in the Navy Yard and at Trattoria Alberto of Capitol Hill, according to Mulvaney’s public calendar. He has also visited the Office of Management and Budget 11 times. Simpson appeared on Mulvaney’s calendars more frequently than anyone who is not a current government official over a seven-month period in 2017, according to ProPublica. He sometimes brought clients, including representatives for BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, to those meetings.” [Renae Merle, “Once Mulvaney’s chief of staff, payday lobbyist enjoys frequent access to his old boss,” The Washington Post, 11/20/19]

  • Mick Mulvaney Has Served As Director Of The Office Of Management And Budget “Since The Beginning” Of The Trump Administration. “President Trump on Friday abruptly named Mick Mulvaney, currently the director of the Office of Management and Budget, as acting White House chief of staff, elevating a conservative ideologue with congressional experience to steer the administration through a treacherous phase. […] He has served as budget director since the beginning, but he also held the role of acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for the past year until his permanent successor, Kathleen Kraninger, was sworn in this week.” [Phillip Rucker, Josh Dawsey, and Damian Paletta, “Trump names budget director Mick Mulvaney as acting White House chief of staff,” The Washington Post, 12/14/18]

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