Daily Report for Executives provides in-depth coverage of unfolding legislative, regulatory, and judicial news from the nation’s capital, the states, and around the world. This daily news service...
The Office of Government Ethics has asked the White House to determine by Feb. 28 whether to investigate and take disciplinary action against Kellyanne Conway, a top adviser to President Donald Trump, for promoting the commercial products of Trump’s daughter, Ivanka.
OGE cautioned in a new letter, however, that it has no authority on its own to discipline Conway if the White House doesn’t act. No specific disciplinary action has been announced against Conway, who spoke on television after Trump tweeted criticism of the Nordstrom department store chain for dropping Ivanka Trump’s product line.
The ethics office letter, signed by OGE director Walter Shaub, responded to a call from Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) for the OGE to act on Conway’s comments. The Republican and Democratic leaders of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said Conway appeared to violate rules barring government officials from promoting commercial products.
The House committee has more authority than OGE to press the White House to act on Conway, the letter noted.
“Unlike the Committee, OGE cannot issue subpoenas, question witnesses, compel the production of documents, or take action against individuals who refuse to cooperate,” it said.
Congressional Republicans, including Chaffetz, the Oversight Committee chairman, have been reluctant to criticize Trump regarding ethics issues raised by his and his family’s business interests. The letter Chaffetz signed to OGE on Feb. 10 was among the first actions by a leading congressional Republican suggesting that ethics allegations involving Trump and his administration should be pursued.
OGE’s Feb. 13 response letter to Chaffetz and Cummings noted that the ethics office has limited enforcement powers under the law and can only recommend disciplinary action to other agencies. Even a recommendation that the White House discipline of Conway would require a formal process that could take until April of May to complete, the letter said. If that process was completed, the ethics office said, its recommendations still might be ignored.
“OGE is also authorized to notify the President if the agency fails to take appropriate disciplinary action,” the letter said. “However, such notice would be ineffective in this case because any decision not to take disciplinary action will have been made by the President.”
OGE also revealed that it had contacted the White House about the Conway matter even before it received the letter from Chaffetz and Cummings calling for action.
The ethics office said in a Feb. 13 letter to Stefan Passantino, the deputy counsel to the president and and designated agency ethics official for the White House, that Passantino was called by OGE officials on Feb. 9, the day of Conway’s televised comments about Ivanka Trump.
The letter noted that although Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said during a a press conference that Conway was “counseled” about her comments, “OGE has not yet received notification of any disciplinary or other corrective action against Ms. Conway.”
The letter to Passantino, signed by Shaub, OGE’s director, recounted reports of Conway’s interview with Fox News following reports that Ivanka Trump’s clothing line was dropped by Nordstrom and Trump criticism’s of Nordstrom on Twitter. Conway urged TV viewers to buy Ivanka Trump’s products, adding: “I’m going to give a free commercial here. Go buy it today, everybody.”
“These facts, if true, would establish a clear violation of the prohibition against misuse of position,” Shaub’s letter to Passantino said. He noted 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 and said Conway’s actions “track that example almost exactly.”
Shaub recommended that “the White House investigate Ms. Conway’s actions and consider taking disciplinary action against her.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Kenneth P. Doyle in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)