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Counselor To The President Kellyanne Conway Used Her Position in Government To Endorse Ivanka Trump Products

Assessment

 

Conway has used her position in government in an effort to enrich the president’s family, in clear violation of the Office for Government Ethic’s Standard for Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch.

 

If we accept the White House Deputy Counsel’s conclusion that Conway acted inadvertently, it shows, at best, negligence by Conway in not actively seeking to learn the rules of ethical engagement upon accepting her position in the executive branch, until such time as Ms. Conway had run afoul of those rules. 

At worst, it represented a naked attempt to use public office for private gain.

Either way, it constituted an instance of political corruption

Published: December 14, 2017

Relevant Ethics Rules

The Office of Government EthicsStandards of Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch regulates the conduct of executive branch employees, which includes the Counselor to the President. 

It forbids the use of public office for personal private gain or the endorsement of any product, service, or enterprise. It also forbids the use of office for the private gain of friends and relatives. Specifically, it reads:

 

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. 

-5 C.F.R §2635.702 (2017)

Interview Endorsing Ivanka Trump Products

On Thursday February 9, 2017, Kellyanne Conway may have violated this ethics rule. In an interview with Fox News, Conway, discussing a decision by retail chain Nordstrom to stop carrying Ivanka Trump brand products, said “go buy Ivanka’s stuff is what I would say......It’s a wonderful line. I own some of it. I’m going to give a free commercial here: Go buy it today, everybody; you can find it online.”

 

In response to this, Walter M. Shaub Jr., the Director of the Office for Government Ethics wrote a letter to the Deputy Counsel to President Trump, Stefan C. Passantino, who handles White House ethics issues. The letter stated that Conway’s public endorsement of Ivanka Trump’s brand was “a clear violation of the prohibition against misuse of position.”  It also stated that she should be disciplined for this infraction. 

 

As Counselor to the President, it was up to President Trump to determine what her punishment should be. 

 

On February 28, 2017, Deputy Counsel Passantino wrote a letter replying to Walter M. Shaub Jr. in which he stated that he had concluded Conway “acted inadvertently and is highly unlikely to do so again……[She] made the statement in question in a light, off-hand manner.” He also stated that he had “personally met with Ms. Conway to review the Standards of Conduct that employees of the Executive Office of the President are expected to follow.” 

 

No further disciplinary action was taken.