Mick Mulvaney at Coin Center Annual Dinner, 2016
Bitcoin,  United States

New White House Chief of Staff: Bitcoin is good, ‘not manipulable by any government’

Mick Mulvaney has been down with crypto since 2014 and shared stages with Ethereum’s Vitalik Buterin

President Trump says director of the Office of Management and Budget—and Bitcoin enthusiast—Mick Mulvaney will come on as acting White House chief of staff when John Kelly leaves the end of the year. Mulvaney will stay on at the OMB where he was narrowly approved by the Senate by just two votes in 2017.

With the government headed to a potential shutdown over a budget disagreement, who better to step in than Mulvaney, one of the architects of the 2017 government shutdown? At the time, he said, “What we just did this week was fine and passable, but not ideal. … I think a good shutdown would be one that could help fix that.” Could a crypto reboot be next?

Probably not. But as a member of congress in 2014 he formed the Blockchain Caucus “to help their colleagues stay up to speed on evolving digital currency and blockchain technologies, and develop policies that advance them.”

Mulvaney is also a supporter of Coin Center, a non-profit research and advocacy center focused on crypto’s public policy issues.

“Mick Mulvaney was an early champion for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies,” Coin Center’s Neeraj Agrawal told Modern Consensus on Monday. “As we saw from his co-founding of the Congressional Blockchain Caucus and various statements on the subject. It’s great to have someone that understands the technology and the policy issues around it in the White House.”

Agrawal echoes much of the crypto press; it’s exciting to have someone who understands the crypto world in the rooms of power—but that might be as far as it goes.

“Right now most cryptocurrency policy is being made by independent agencies like the SEC, CFTC, and IRS,” Agrawal added. “Also, Mr. Mulvaney will have his hands full with a portfolio of other more pressing issues so it’s unlikely that he will be focusing too closely on cryptocurrency.”

In 2016 Mulvaney spoke at Coin Center’s annual dinner alongside Ethereum’s Vitalik Buterin. Their 2017 dinner was held on May 22, aka Bitcoin Pizza Day.

“For the past two years we have worked with Representatives Mulvaney and Polis to educate their colleagues through briefings and other events, and the new Congressional Blockchain Caucus will be a wonderful new platform to continue these efforts,” Jerry Brito, executive director of Coin Center said at the time. “Their forward-thinking leadership on blockchain technology in Congress is unmatched.”

In 2014, Mulvaney also became the first member of Congress to accept campaign donations via Bitcoin, and vowed to fight any policy that restricted the adoption and growth of using the technology. In 2015 as Vice-Chair of the the House Committee on Financial Services he got then Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen to defend cryptocurrency and argue for smart approach to regulation.

But in July 2016 Mulvaney sang bitcoin’s praises at the expense of Yellen’s Federal Reserve. Mother Jones later acquired a recording of a closed-door speech to the John Birch Society. In the speech, Mulvaney blasted the Federal Reserve, saying its actions have “effectively devalued the dollar” and “choke[d] off economic growth.” He praised Bitcoin as a currency that is “not manipulatable by any government.”

In September 2016 he encouraged Congress to learn about cryptocurrency and “get involved as blockchain technology becomes more widely used across communities and companies.”

“Blockchain technology has the potential to revolutionize the financial services industry, the U.S. economy and the delivery of government services, and I am proud to be involved with this initiative,” Mulvaney said in a statement back then.

This is all pretty forward thinking for a guy who didn’t buy his own domain name. MickMulvaney.com is a an anti-Mulvaney watchdog website run by a disappointed constituent. The Library of Congress keeps and archive of his campaign websites and social networks. His weird pro-Comey/anti-Hillary tweets are archived forever. But hopefully he is not planning to run for Congress any time soon since his former campaign site mulvaneyforcongress.com has reverted to GoDaddy. Anyone can buy it for $69.99.

His current job at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is a cabinet-level agency operating under the Office of the President. So is his current role as acting chief of staff. There has never been a blockchain enthusiast higher up in the White House.

The move to Chief of Staff also means that he will step down as head of Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, another dual role he carried since he sued to keep it in November of 2017. Also strange since he called the agency formed after the recession as a “sick, sad joke” as far back as 2014. He also co-sponsored legislation to eliminate it. On January 18, 2018, Mulvaney submitted a quarterly budget request for the CFPB to the Federal Reserve for $0.

The Bureau should serve to protect people against predatory lenders, specifically the so-called payday loan lenders who charge poor people up to 400 percent. He also dismissed a case built by the CFPB against a lender accused of charging 950 percent interest. Mulaney knows these creeps well since he received over $63,000 in campaign donations from the payday loan industry, including the lender accused in that case.

“As a congressman he took $62,000 plus from the payday lenders. And now at the CFPB he’s doing their bidding,” Karl Frisch, executive director of the consumer group Allied Progress, said earlier this year. For comparison that’s six times the $10,667 he received in small-dollar Bernie-Sanders-type donations.

So that’s how Mulvaney deals with regular finance crooks. What about crypto crooks? Crypto is a wildly growing industry that at once point was worth $500 billion in capital. Can Mulvaney push for some kind of oversight? That’s unlikely since, by his own admission, Mulvaney only talks to lobbyists who pony up for his campaign. And he’s not running this cycle.

As a member of congress he had a rule. “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you,” he told 1,300 bankers and ending industry officials in April 2018 at an American Bankers Association conference in Washington. “If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.”

Brendan Sullivan is a writer, producer, and author of the memoir Rivington Was Ours: Lady Gaga, the Lower East Side, and the Prime of Our Lives. Disclosure: he owns cryptocurrencies. Follow him on Twitter.

Subscribe to MODERN CONSENSUS Newsletter