The U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) issued a scathing letter on February 14, calling on the White House to discipline Kellyanne Conway after she told people to buy Ivanka Trump’s clothes on Fox News on February 9. You can read the letter in full above.
When Conway was on Fox News on February 9, she was asked about Nordstrom’s decision to drop a clothing line with President Donald Trump’s daughter’s name on it. She told viewers to buy Ivanka’s clothes and that she was going to do that herself. This may have been in violation of Federal Ethics Code Section 5 CFR 2635.702, which bars public officials from using their office for private gain.
“Go buy Ivanka’s stuff is what I would tell you. I hate shopping, and I’m gonna go get some on myself today,” Conway said on Fox News, later even admitting that she was giving the clothing line a “free commercial.”
In their letter to Stefan Passantino, Trump’s Designated Agency Ethics Official, the OGE writes that they have seen no proof that Conway was disciplined by the executive branch. They recommend that the White House discipline Conway in some way. However, the OGE does not have the power to make sure that the White House does so in the first page of the letter, which is addressed to House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz and ranking member Elijah Cummings.
The letter reads in part:
Although Press Secretary Sean Spicer stated during a press conference on February 9, 2017, that, “Kellyanne has been counseled, and that’s all we’re going to go with,” OGE has not yet received notification of any disciplinary or other corrective action against Ms. Conway. When OGE has reason to believe that an employee may have violated the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch (Standards of Conduct), OGE is authorized to recommend that the employing agency investigate the matter and consider taking disciplinary action against the employee. Under the present circumstances, there is strong reason to believe that Ms. Conway has violated the Standards of Conduct and that disciplinary action is warranted.
After listing quotes from Conway’s Fox News appearance and noting that Conway delivered those statements with the seal of the White House behind them, the letter reads:
These facts, if true, would establish a clear violation of the prohibition against misuse of position. I note that OGE’s regulation on misuse of position offers as an example the hypothetical case of a Presidential appointee appearing in a television commercial to promote a product. Ms. Conway’s actions track that example almost exactly. Therefore, I recommend that the White House investigate Ms. Conway’s actions and consider taking disciplinary action against her.
Conway’s comments were criticized by politicians on both sides of the aisle. On the day after her comments, the House Oversight Committee leaders wrote a letter requesting that the OGE look into the matter. “What she did was wrong, wrong, wrong,” Republican Jason Chaffetz tweeted.
The Office of Government Ethics is an independent agency in the executive branch that’s meant to prevent conflicts of interest among employees in the federal government. The director is appointed by the president, but gets a five-year term so their tenure always overlaps presidential terms. Walter Shaub is the current OGE director.
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