A public endorsement of Ivanka Trump’s clothing products by White House staffer Kellyanne Conway broke federal regulations, the head of the Office of Government Ethics alleged this week.
“Under the present circumstances, there is strong reason to believe that Ms. Conway has violated the Standards of Conduct Act and that disciplinary action is warranted,” agency Director Walter Schaub declared in a letter he sent to Stefan Passantino, a deputy counsel for the Trump administration. According to Newsmax, Democratic members of the House Oversight Committee pounced on the news, tweeting the letter to their colleagues.
During a recent television interview, Conway advised viewers: “Go buy Ivanka’s stuff, is what I would tell you. … I hate shopping, but I’m going to go get some for myself today.” The aide, one of Trump’s closest advisers, also said: “I’m going to give it a free commercial here. Go buy it today.” The remarks were in response to the retailer Nordstrom having stopped selling clothes designed by the president’s daughter. The company’s stores had endured protests by anti-Trump crowds. Dropping the product line sparked demonstrations by the president’s supporters.
Schaub explained that Conway is guilty of wrongdoing because she made the endorsement while speaking as a government official in the White House briefing room. “She was unquestionably appearing in her official capacity,” he said. “She used that interview, however, as an opportunity to market Ms. Trump’s products.”
Schaub wrote that his office’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.” He continued: “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.”
According to The Hill, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Conway “has been counseled.” However, he did not indicate whether the aide will face punishment. Conway, who serves Trump as a counselor, was his top spokeswoman during last year’s presidential campaign.