Ethics Experts: Kellyanne Conway Broke Law by Promoting Ivanka Trump Brand
By Lauren McCauley / Common Dreams
White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, it seems, “crossed a very bright line” when she openly encouraged people to “go buy Ivanka’s stuff” after President Donald Trump slammed Nordstrom department store for dropping his daughter’s fashion line.
Appearing on “Fox & Friends” on Thursday, Conway told viewers, “Go buy Ivanka’s stuff. I hate shopping, I will go get some myself today,” before adding, “I’m going to give a free commercial here.”
Observers were immediately dumbstruck, especially because—as some pointed out—federal law explicitly states:
§ 2635.702 Use of public office for private gain.
An employee shall not use his public office for his own private gain, for the endorsement of any product, service or enterprise, or for the private gain of friends, relatives, or persons with whom the employee is affiliated in a nongovernmental capacity, including nonprofit organizations of which the employee is an officer or member, and persons with whom the employee has or seeks employment or business relations.
“This is jaw-dropping to me,” exclaimed Don W. Fox, former general counsel and former acting director of the Office of Government Ethics, to The Washington Post. “This rule has been promulgated by the federal Office of Government Ethics as part of the Standards of Conduct for all executive branch employees and it applies to all members of the armed forces as well.”
Brookings Institution fellow and former White House ethics chief Norm Eisen agreed, saying Thursday that Conway broke the law “plain and simple.”
And Robert Weissman, president of the government watchdog Public Citizen, declared in a statement, “Anyone harboring illusions that there was some separation between the Trump administration and the Trump family businesses has had their fantasy shattered. Kellyanne Conway’s self-proclaimed advertisement for the Ivanka Trump fashion line demonstrates again what anyone with common sense already knew: President Trump and the Trump administration will use the government apparatus to advance the interests of the family businesses.”
Citing the federal statute, Public Citizen on Thursday called for an official ethics investigation.
Even Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer, whom the Post notes “has worked closely with Trump aide Stephen K. Bannon,” said the Trump administration has “crossed a very, very important bright line, and it’s not good. To encourage Americans to buy goods from companies owned by the first family is totally out of bounds and needs to stop.”
Conway’s comments came a day after the president tweeted his outrage over Nordstrom treating “[m]y daughter Ivanka…so unfairly.”
Perhaps equally troubling, however, is that the person charged with overseeing such conflicts of interest, House Oversight Committee chair Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), said that Trump’s remarks were not “a big deal.”
When asked by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday if its ethical “for the President to be commenting about his daughter’s business like this?” Chaffetz responded: “I think most people can relate to the fact that a father, a doting father with very successful children is going to look after those children and, you know, if he sees something going wrong, he’s going to call it out.”
Seriously, can we get anyone else to run the House Oversight Committee? A cocker spaniel? Maybe a bag of gravel? pic.twitter.com/oXiP63fjwo
— Kevin M. Kruse (@KevinMKruse) February 8, 2017
Meanwhile, it appears that several other retailers, including T.J. Maxx, are also preparing to drop the first daughter’s fashion line prompting many to wonder what more the White House will do in return.
“[W]hat message is this sending to any company that declines to do business with the Trump Organization?” the Daily Kos’ Jen Hayden asked. “If you are a retailer selling Donald Trump’s (made in Asia) ties or his (made in Mexico) suits and sales are tanking, will the President of the United States use power of the the White House to publicly go after you? After all, yesterday the president’s own spokesman referred to Nordstrom’s decision to stop carrying the Ivanka Trump line (due to lackluster sales) as a ‘direct attack‘ on Donald Trump and his policies.”
“The Trump family is clearly using the White House to financially benefit their family,” Hayden added. “Where does this end?”Wait, before you go…
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