The Office of Government Ethics rebuked the White House for failing to discipline Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Donald Trump, after she encouraged Americans to purchase Ivanka Trump’s products during a Fox News broadcast.
In letters to both the White House Counsel’s office and top members of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, OGE director Walter Shaub criticized the White House for its “extraordinary assertion,” made in a recent letter, that “many regulations promulgated by the Office of Government Ethics (‘OGE’) do not apply to employees of the Executive Office of the President.”
“The assertion is incorrect, and the letter cites no legal basis for it,” Shaub wrote. “Presidential administrations have not considered it appropriate to challenge the applicability of ethics rules to the entire executive branch. It is critical to the public’s faith in the integrity of government that White House employees be held to the same standard of ethical accountability as other executive branch employees.”
Schaub also expressed concern over the lack of discipline of Conway. “I remain concerned about Ms. Conway’s misuse of position,” Shaub wrote. “Not taking disciplinary action against a senior official under such circumstances risks undermining the ethics program.” He noted there is “strong reason to believe that Ms. Conway has violated the Standards of Conduct” by promoting private gain for the president’s family, adding that “disciplinary action is warranted.”
A regulation from the OGE bans federal employees from endorsing products or companies and prohibits the use of public office for the personal gain of oneself or friends and relatives.
Under the regulation, the director of OGE can notify the employee of the violation. The director can then ask the agency’s workers to investigate. A first offense would likely result in a mere warning. However, the director could also recommend disciplinary action, including suspension and loss of pay or termination.