In a 50-minute interview with Axios, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin covered a wide variety of topics ranging from tax cuts to healthcare reform, and from terrorism to his favorite movie.
It is quite evident from this candid interview that Secretary Mnuchin is very knowledgeable and down to earth. He has quirks like most people do, but it is a little strange considering that most Washingtonian politicians have their quirks programmed out of them. It was nice to see a Cabinet secretary who came across like a human being and not some cold, stilted, plastic, arrogant political robot.
Out of all the topics he discussed, the one thing that Democrats are outraged about are his comments on a movie. As you may know, Mnuchin helped to found a film production company called RatPac-Dune Entertainment in 2004 as a side project. X-Men and Avatar are a couple of examples of beneficiaries of his production company.
The last question posed by the Axios host was about what his favorite movie was “as a former producer.”
“Oh, no question, Avatar,” he said with a beaming smile before adding, “Largest grossing film ever.”
When asked what movie he’d recommend people see, he offered this caveat: “I’m not allowed to promote anything that I’m involved in. So I just want to have the legal disclosure, you’ve asked me the question, and I am not promoting any product.”
Then, he said with a smile, “But you should send all your kids to Lego Batman.” Those attending the interview, as well as the host, took it as a joke and thought it was funny.
But it’s not funny according to some very concerned Democrats. They want an investigation into this very important matter. From Reuters:
The top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee asked the government ethics watchdog on Monday to review comments by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin plugging “The Lego Batman Movie,” a film one of his companies produced, for a possible ethics violation.
In a letter to Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub, Senator [score]Ron Wyden[/score] [D-OR] said he was concerned that Mnuchin had violated his ethics agreement signed in January in his comments on Friday at the end of a live interview with the Axios news website.
Mnuchin had agreed to divest his interests in Ratpac-Dune Entertainment Holdings LLC within 120 days of his confirmation, and “not participate personally and substantially in any matter that has a direct and predictable effect on the financial interests of the entity” unless first obtaining a waiver.
RatPac-Dune, co-founded by Mnuchin with producer-director Brett Rattner and media billionaire James Packer, has produced and financed a number of Hollywood hits in recent years, including “Avatar,” “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “The Lego Batman Movie.”
“I am concerned that Sec. Mnuchin’s comments, may be seen to have a predictable effect on the financial interests” of RatPac-Dune, Wyden said in his letter.
In a statement, a Treasury spokesman said: “As his statement reflects, the Secretary clearly recognized that he generally may not promote private interests and specifically gave the legal disclosure that he was not promoting a movie, but answering a question he was asked directly.”
The whole interview is worth watching, but the severe ethics violations occur at the end, around the 50-minute mark:
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