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Feb. 9, 2017

Public Citizen Calls for Ethics Investigation Into Kellyanne Conway’s Sales Pitch for Ivanka Trump Products

Federal Rules Prohibit Employees From Using Public Office for Private Gain

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Public Citizen today urged (PDF) the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) to investigate whether Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Donald Trump, violated federal regulations addressing the use of public office for private gain and to take appropriate enforcement actions if she did.

In a Fox News appearance today, Conway endorsed the product line of Ivanka Trump and encouraged viewers to buy Trump’s products. Conway said, “This is just [a] wonderful line. … I’m going to give a free commercial here. Go buy it today, everybody. You can find it online.”

Such a sales pitch by a federal employee appears to violate 5 C.F.R. 2635.702, which expressly prohibits employees from making such product endorsements. It says that “an employee shall not use his public office for his own private gain, for the endorsement of any product, service or enterprise, or for the private gain of friends, relatives, or persons with whom the employee is affiliated in a nongovernmental capacity.”

“Anyone harboring illusions that there was some separation between the Trump administration and the Trump family businesses has had their fantasy shattered,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “Kellyanne Conway’s self-proclaimed advertisement for the Ivanka Trump fashion line demonstrates again what anyone with common sense already knew: President Trump and the Trump administration will use the government apparatus to advance the interests of the family businesses.”

“Conway’s action reflects an ongoing careless disregard of the conflicts of interest laws and regulations by some members of the Trump family and Trump administration,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen. “While many of these restrictions may not explicitly apply to the president or vice president, the administration’s employees are not immune from these ethics rules.”

Read Public Citizen’s letter to the OGE (PDF).

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