US Office of Government Ethics urges disciplinary action against Kellyanne Conway

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Kellyanne Conway
Kellyanne Conway on NBC's "Meet the Press." Reuters/Carlos Barria

The federal government’s ethics watchdog said Kellyanne Conway did a “clear violation” of rules when she endorsed Ivanka Trump’s clothing line on “Fox & Friends.” Office of Government Ethics (OGT) director Walter Shaub recommends that the White House take disciplinary action against US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser.

“I recommend that the White House investigate Ms Conway’s actions and consider taking disciplinary action against her,” Shaub wrote in a letter is dated Feb. 13. He has pointed out that Conway’s statement regarding the first daughter’s clothing and accessory line was made while at the White House’s press briefing room, which means she should only be addressing her “official capacity.”

The OGT director believes that Trump’s senior adviser has utilised her appearance on “Fox & Friends” last week to market Ivanka’s merchandise. The letter was sent to Trump’s deputy White House counsel Stefan Passantino.

Conway has been in hot water after her remarks regarding Ivanka Trump’s clothing line. “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,” Conway told “Fox & Friends.”

Kathleen Clark, a government ethics expert at Washington University in St Louis, says that the White House counsellor has violated the Code of Federal Regulations’ Section 2635.702 of Title 5. She appeared to have violated a statute describing "appropriations for the Executive Office were not made for the purpose of endorsing commercial products."

Right after Conway’s controversial interview, Larry Noble, the general counsel for the Campaign Legal Centre, has quickly pointed that the White House counsellor had broken the law.  He stressed that she may have just violated ban on federal employees on utilising public office for endorsement of product.

Representatives Jason Chaffetz of Utah (R) and Elijah Cummings of Maryland (D) have previously indicated in a letter to the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) that Conway’s comments about Ivanka’s business “clearly violate the ethical principles for federal employees and are unacceptable.” Don W Fox, a former OGE general counsel, agreed that Conway’s comments during her “Fox & Friends” appearance were inappropriate. Fox said her remarks were “jaw-dropping” and “a clear violation of rules prohibiting misuse of public office for anyone’s private gain.”

Last week, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Conway has been “counselled” for promoting Ivanka’s merchandise. “Kellyanne has been counselled, and that's all we are going to go with,” Spicer told reporters.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the consultation with Conway had taken place right after the “Fox & Friends” interview. But the White House spokesperson has not provided details about who spoke to Conway or what was discussed with her. Shaub asked the White House to notify the OGE about any investigation and actions by Feb. 28.