Donald Trump's campaign manager Kellyanne Conway speaks to the media while entering Trump Tower on Nov. 14, 2016 in New York, N.Y.
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty

Kellyanne Conway burdened by her own ethics mess

The White House’s Republican allies are prepared to look the other way in response to all kinds of Team Trump controversies, but even GOP lawmakers weren’t pleased with Kellyanne Conway last week.

Donald Trump’s presidential counselor, speaking from the West Wing, appeared on national television and encouraged the public to buy Ivanka Trump’s merchandise. Conway, a public official whose salary is paid by taxpayers, was pushing back against retailers who’d dropped the president’s daughter’s product line following poor sales.

Or put another way, a White House official did a little on-air testimonial in support of her boss’ daughter’s business – despite laws that appear to prohibit such behavior. No wonder the Office of Government Ethics is unimpressed.
The Office of Government Ethics warned the White House there is “strong reason” to believe presidential aide Kellyanne Conway violated ethics rules and that disciplinary action is warranted in a letter made public on Tuesday.

OGE Director Walter Shaub said Conway’s urging of Americans to buy Ivanka Trump’s products during a television interview from the White House briefing room “would establish a clear violation of the prohibition against misuse of position.”
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters the day after the incident that Conway had been “counseled” – he didn’t elaborate on what that entailed, exactly – but Shaub’s letter added that his office was unaware of any disciplinary action.

“Executive branch officials should use the authority entrusted to them for the benefit of the American people and not for private profit,” he wrote, adding that he recommends “the White House investigate Ms. Conway’s actions and consider taking disciplinary action against her.”

In theory, experienced officials, after several years on the job, might slip, having forgotten exactly where the legal and ethical lines are drawn. But when Conway encouraged shoppers to purchase the president’s daughter’s merchandise, she’d been on the job for just three weeks. She received information on do’s and don’ts very recently.

It’s yet another distraction for a White House that appears increasingly lost.