Trump  Mulvaney meeting

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, right, attends a meeting with President Donald Trump, left, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington on Nov. 28, with Republican congressional leaders. AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Senate Democrats want a federal investigation into whether Mick Mulvaney violated federal ethics law when he admitted to prioritizing meetings with lobbyists who supported him while he was a South Carolina congressman.

Mulvaney, who is both the interim head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the current White House budget director, told bankers at a conference last week that his congressional office had "a hierarchy" when it came to which meetings were accepted and which were rejected.

"If you're a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn't talk to you. If you're a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you," Mulvaney told some 1,300 banking executives and lobbyists at the annual conference of the American Bankers Association in Washington.

Mulvaney, who represented the Upstate 5th Congressional District until President Donald Trump tapped him to be his budget director, reiterated that he always met with constituents regardless of their financial contributions.

Six senators sent a letter Tuesday to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel asking for an investigation as to whether Mulvaney violated the Hatch Act, a 1939 law that seeks to limit the political activities of federal employees. 

"In his official capacity as interim director of the CFPB, he suggested to 1,300 bankers and lobbyists that they increase their campaign donations as a way to influence lawmakers," the senators wrote in their letter.

"If the initial reporting by The New York Times is accurate, it raises troubling questions about whether his statements ran afoul of the Hatch Act," the letter said.

The Democrats who signed onto the letter were Oregon's Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, Dianne Feinstein of California, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Nevada's Catherine Cortez Masto, and independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. 

"These comments reinforce the American public's worst fears about a corrupt Washington establishment that sells access and is rigged for special interests with teams of lobbyists and deep pockets," they added in their request.

The letter comes one day after a government watchdog group in Washington requested a separate investigation into Mulvaney.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics on Monday sent a nine-page letter to the federal inspector general and to lawmakers U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., and Sanders. The group alleges Mulvaney misled a Senate panel during his confirmation hearings last year.

Mulvaney's comments at the banking conference drew the ire of Washington, sparking outrage from Democrats and Republicans alike for his admission.

Others said Mulvaney was criticized for vocalizing what many in Washington know to be true: that money means access and open doors.

Mulvaney received $684,520 from political action committees for his 2016 reelection bid, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-937-5590 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

Caitlin Byrd is a political reporter at The Post and Courier and author of the Palmetto Politics newsletter. Before moving to Charleston in 2016, her byline appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times. To date, Byrd has won 17 awards for her work.