Mike Mulvaney is quietly lobbying to protect a factory in his old congressional district, run by a friend and campaign contributor, from the impact of President Donald Trump’s tariffs, McClatchy reported Monday.
Mulvaney, a former Republican congressman who now leads the Office of Management and Budget, has been working behind the scenes on behalf of Element Electronics, a television assembly plant in his former district, since before the tariffs went into effect earlier this summer.
“Mick has been an advocate from day one,” Rep. Ralph Norman (R), who replaced Mulvaney in South Carolina’s 5th congressional district, told McClatchy. “He was trying to get [tariff] exclusions well ahead of the announcement. He was trying to get the White House to take a look at it, at least look at it.”
Democratic state Sen. Mike Fanning, who represents the district where Element is based, also confirmed Mulvaney’s involvement in efforts to save the Fairfield County, South Carolina plant.
“I know that he is actively pleading on our behalf, because people we’ve talked to in D.C., they say, ‘Yes, yes, yes, we’ve already heard this from Mick Mulvaney,'” Fanning told McClatchy.
The plant is personal for Mulvaney. Michael O’Shaughnessy, Element’s president, is a close friend who contributed $5,400 to Mulvaney’s 2016 congressional campaign, according to McClatchy.
Element is also one of on the only remaining employers in Fairfield County — a poor, rural area that’s seen jobs evaporate in recent years. The county lost 200 jobs when its last textile mill closed last year and 5,000 more when a long-running nuclear project fell through, according to The State. Just a year early, the county lost 300 more jobs when its Walmart closed.
Earlier this month, Element told the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce that it would close the plant, which employees 126 workers, beginning in October. The letter, which was obtained by The State, cited “new tariffs that were recently and unexpectedly imposed on many goods imported from China, including the key television components used in our assembly operations.”
Mulvaney has long been a skeptic of Trump’s tariffs, which are part of an effort to fight what the president says are unfair trade deals with China and other nations. But this marks the first time Mulvaney has intervened so directly for a local interest, according to McClatchy.
Still, the plant closure would be a knockout punch for Fairfield County, and it’s little wonder state and local officials have lobbied Mulvaney to intercede with the White House on their behalf.
“When you think you’ve reached rock bottom, to get kicked in the gut like this, you didn’t think anything more could happen,” Fanning told The State after Element announced the closure. “Within 365 days, you just get rocked to your core.”