In the annals of Trump administration scandals, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney’s frivolous decor expenditures probably won’t register as much more than a footnote. His splurges do not approach the $31,000 that Housing Secretary Ben Carson attempted to slip past monitors. Mulvaney’s picture-framing predilections probably rank somewhere around Scott Pruitt’s fancy hotel hand lotion quest. They are still pretty funny.
The liberal activists at Allied Progress submitted a Freedom of Information Act request targeting Mulvaney’s decor tab and generously turned over the receipts to HuffPost. Here are our favorites.
$198.50: A copy of Politico magazine
Though the OMB declined to comment for this article, the framed Politico paraphernalia is almost certainly the Friday cover dated Sept. 1, 2017, which features Mulvaney’s mug for a profile titled “Mick the Knife.” We don’t really begrudge anybody wanting to frame some good press. But it’s still funny when a budget director who described taxation as “theft” and “larceny” bills the U.S. Treasury $198.50 for a picture of his own face.
$198.50: A Rush Limbaugh newsletter
Though the newsletter (framed cost: $198.50) features a glowing interview between Limbaugh and Mulvaney, the rest of it consists of some de rigeur dumping on the media. Limbaugh accuses The New York Times of peddling “some of the most irresponsible garbage imaginable” and serving as a “proud sponsor of the Trump assassination performances.” This is funny only because of the next item on this list.
$138.00: A clipping of The New York Times
Mulvaney spent $138 to have a story from the Nov. 26, 2017, edition of The New York Times set against a gray mat beneath UV-protected glass in a concave-lipped black frame. The Times was apparently not fake news that day.
This is extra funny because the Times sells framed front pages for $60, but Mulvaney didn’t make the front page. Oh, well.
$294.28: A giant map of South Carolina
As state shapes go, South Carolina’s is not particularly attractive. Jagged and lopsided, it always seems it’s on the verge of falling into the Atlantic. And yet Mulvaney still debited the Treasury $294.28 for a 6-by-5-foot map of his home state.
$566.27: A portrait of a bad president
Upon hearing the news that the staid and emotionally astringent Calvin Coolidge had died, Dorothy Parker quipped, “How can they tell?” The closest thing he had to an aphorism to pass down to posterity is a declaration that “the chief business of the American people is business.”
The 30th president, he presided over a prolonged agricultural depression, the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan and the inflation of a stock market bubble that would wreak havoc on the presidency of his successor, Herbert Hoover. As international financial turmoil arising out of World War I curdled into a series of European political calamities, Coolidge favored Band-Aids to boldness.
“Nero fiddled,” according to H.L. Mencken, “but Coolidge only snored.”
So naturally, Coolidge has become something of a hero to the modern conservative movement. Fifty-two years after he left office, Ronald Reagan hung a portrait of Coolidge in the White House Cabinet Room, and he has received favorable biographical treatments in the 21st century from conservative historian Amity Shlaes and “alt-right” blogger Chuck C. Johnson.
Although small government advocates praise Coolidge today, in his time, it was his big-government, anti-immigrant stance that attracted the most attention. An immigration bill that he signed into law in 1924 prohibited all immigration from Asia and dramatically reduced the admittance of Catholics and Jews. In the late 1920s, Adolf Hitler hailed the plan for strengthening America’s racial makeup ― an appropriate tribute for a law that would later serve as a legal justification for President Franklin Roosevelt’s refusal to admit Jewish refugees during the Holocaust.
Anyway, Mulvaney’s deputy, Russell Vought, spent $566.27 getting a portrait of Coolidge framed for the office. OMB staffers appear to have been initially concerned about the possible cost and first checked to see if the Smithsonian had a portrait on hand before ordering something from the internet.