Ethics office says Conway's TV plug for Ivanka Trump a 'clear violation'

"Disciplinary action is warranted," the Office of Government Ethics said in a letter to the White House.
By Doug G. Ware  |  Feb. 14, 2017 at 6:34 PM
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Feb. 14 (UPI) -- The U.S. Office of Government Ethics told the White House this week that presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway's promoting the Ivanka Trump fashion line on live TV appears to be a "clear violation" of federal rules.

Conway, a senior-level adviser to President Donald Trump, has taken heat for her appearance on Fox News Channel last week -- which ended with her giving the president's daughter "a free commercial" for her clothing business.

"Go buy Ivanka's stuff. It's a wonderful line. I own some of it," Conway told the program Fox and Friends last Thursday. "I fully, I'm just going to give a free commercial here -- go buy it today, everybody. You can find it online."

Conway appeared on the program in an official capacity, situated in front of an official White House placard. Federal law prohibits government representatives from using their office to promote the private interests of another person.

"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," the office said in a letter to Deputy Counsel to the President Stefan Passantino.

The Office of Government Ethics is an independent agency within the executive branch that is responsible for establishing standards of conduct, identifying conflicts of interest and issuing rules and regulations.

Conway addressed the product line as part of a discussion about Nordstrom's recent decision to stop selling Ivanka's products in its stores.

Several lawmakers heavily criticized Conway for plugging Ivanka Trump's merchandise. Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, lodged complaints with the OGE on Feb. 9.

The OGE said in its letter that it doesn't have the authority to discipline Conway, and can only make a recommendation to the White House that she be subjected to such action.

"These facts, if true, would establish a clear violation of the prohibition against misuse of position," OGE Director Walter M. Shaub, Jr., said in the letter, which was dated Feb. 13. "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."

After Conway's televised interview, the White House said it had "counseled" her on the matter. It's unclear whether she will be disciplined as per the OGE recommendation.

"[Trump] supports me, and millions of Americans support him and his agenda," Conway wrote on her Twitter page Friday.

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