Senior White House counselor Kellyanne Conway might have violated an ethics rule on Thursday morning when she urged Fox News viewers to “go buy Ivanka’s stuff,” but while everyone seems to think she broke the rules it remains to be seen if she will be punished.
Federal employees are banned from using their public office to endorse products, but Conway used her appearance on “Fox & Friends” to pitch Ivanka Trump’s merchandise, saying, “I’m going to give it a free commercial here, go buy it today.”
Fox News hosts Jenna Lee and Chris Wallace quickly discussed if Conway violated rules on their very own network, while Campaign Legal Center general counsel Lawrence Noble noticed the situation almost immediately and took to Twitter to point it out.
Appears Kellayanne Conway may have just violated ban on Federal employee using public office for endorsement of product. 5 CFR 2635.702 https://t.co/mIvngSHCnk
— Larry Noble (@LarryNoble_DC) February 9, 2017
During Thursday’s White House press briefing, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Conway “has been counseled” on the situation.
Former general counsel Don W. Fox told the Washington Post that “Conway’s encouragement to buy Ivanka’s stuff would seem to be a clear violation of rules prohibiting misuse of public office for anyone’s private gain.”
Fox told the Post the violation is “jaw-dropping” and “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.”
CNN Money correspondent Christina Alesci echoed Fox’s thoughts during an on-air conversation with Wolf Blitzer on Thursday afternoon.
“The law is very clear on this, it’s called the use of public office for private gain. It’s a section of the U.S government’s code and it essentially says… public employees cannot endorse brands to benefit or help their friends or family,” Alesci said.
The question now appears to be whether or not Conway will get in trouble for the incident. According to the Post, citing a lawyer, “a typical executive-branch employee who violated the rule could face significant disciplinary action, including a multi-day suspension and loss of pay.”
However, Conway is not a typical employee. She is regarded as one of President Trump’s closest allies and it’s important to remember that this whole thing started because the president defended his daughter on Twitter.
On Wednesday, Trump called the department store Nordstrom “terrible” because it decided last week to stop selling Ivanka Trump’s clothing and accessory line.
According to the Post, the White House would have the responsibility of punishing Conway. And Trump could punish Conway to send a message that his administration takes conflict if interest fears seriously.
But the way Trump has run the White House so far, it’s hard to envision him punishing one of his most trusted advisers, especially considering Conway was trying to defend Ivanka. Meanwhile, the Office of Government Ethics chimed in on Thursday afternoon.
1/OGE’s website, phone system and email system are receiving an extraordinary volume of contacts from citizens about recent events.
— U.S. OGE (@OfficeGovEthics) February 9, 2017