Rep. Cummings Urges Disciplinary Action Against "Unethical" Kellyanne Conway For "Buy Ivanka" Comments

Having slammed Rahm Emanuel earlier in the day for urging Democrats to "take a chill pill," Rep. Elijah Cummings just couldn't help himself after hearing Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway jokingly suggesting "go buy Ivanka [Trump]'s stuff" during a Fox News interview about retailers' boycotting the first daughter. Cummings has demanded an ethics probe and disciplinary action.

Thanks, but no thanks. As The DailyCaller reports, Democrats ignored advice from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to “take a chill pill” and turned up the heat instead. “I’m not familiar with the statement, but I don’t have time to chill. Life is too short,” Maryland Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings told The Daily Caller Wednesday at the Democratic House Issues Conference.

And so, after seeing this comment from Kellyanne Conway...

Rep. Cummings has demanded an ethics probe...

Cummings Statement: Kellyanne Conway's Nationally Televised Pitch for Ivanka Trump's Clothing Line Appears to Be "Textbook Violation of Government Ethics Laws"

Washington, D.C. (Feb. 9, 2017)--Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letter to Chairman Jason Chaffetz requesting that the Committee refer for potential disciplinary action statements made on national television by Kellyanne Conway, the Counselor to President Donald Trump, that directly promoted and endorsed the President's daughter's private business.


"This appears to be a textbook violation of government ethics laws and regulations enacted to prevent the abuse of an employee's government position," Cummings wrote. "Since the Committee has direct jurisdiction over the ethics laws applicable to White House employees, I request that the Committee make an official referral of this matter to the Office of Government Ethics and request that it report back to the Committee as soon as possible with its findings."


Cummings referred to comments made by Conway this morning on Fox News, urging viewers to "go buy Ivanka's stuff," and stating, "I'm going to just give a free commercial here. Go buy it today everybody. You can find it online."


Federal regulations state 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."


Under the section of these regulations entitled "Corrective Action Involving Individual Employees," the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) has authority to review potential violations and recommend discipline ranging from suspension to loss of pay to removal.

Don W. Fox, the former General Counsel and Acting Director of OGE, called Conway's comments "jaw-dropping" and "a clear violation of rules prohibiting misuse of public office for anyone's private gain."

Additionally, left-leaning watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) called her remarks “an apparent violation of federal law, ethics regulations and other standards of conduct” in a letter to the Office of Government Ethics. CREW's executive director, Noah Bookbinder, urges them to “take any necessarily disciplinary action.”

Dear Director Shaub and Mr. McGahn:


    In a television interview this morning, Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway improperly endorsed the products of President Trump's daughter, Ivanka Trump. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington ("CREW") therefore respectfully requests that U.S. Office of Government Ethics ("OGE") and the White House Counsel's Office investigate this apparent violation of federal law, ethics regulations, and other standards of conduct, and take any necessary disciplinary action.


    During an interview on Fox & Friends, Ms. Conway explicitly endorsed Ms. Trump's products. In response to reports that Nordstrom department stores are dropping Ms. Trump's accessories and clothing line and to President Trump's tweet alleging Nordstrom had treated his daughter "so unfairly," Ms. Conway stated: "Go buy Ivanka's stuff is what I would tell you. I hate shopping, I'm going to go get some myself today."' Later in the interview, Ms. Conway even more clearly endorsed Ms. Trump's products, asserting: "It's a wonderful line. I own some of it. I fully — I'm going to give a free commercial here. Go buy it today, everybody. You can find it online."


    At the time, Ms. Conway unquestionably was acting in her official capacity. She was introduced as the "special counselor to President of the United States, Kellyanne Conway, who joins us today from the briefing room," and the White House seal is visible behind her during the interview.


    Federal ethics regulations concerning the "use of office for private gain" clearly prohibit any employee from endorsing "any product, service or enterprise." Specifically, the regulations provide that "[a]n employee shall not use or permit the use of [her] Government position or title or any authority associated with [her] public office to endorse any product, service or enterprise" except in circumstances clearly inapplicable here . In fact, one example provided in the regulations states that a government employee "may not appear in a television commercial in which she endorses" a product. By explicitly endorsing Ms. Trump's products, Ms. Conway appears to have violated these regulations.


    In addition, prior administrations issued policies making clear that these provisions apply to all White House employees, including the president.8 It is not known if President Trump has issued a similar policy for his administration, but if he has, Ms. Conway's endorsement of Ms. Trump's products also would likely violate it.


    Federal law further prohibits the use of public funds for non-official purposes. Under 31 U.S.C. § 1301(a), "[a]ppropriations shall be applied only to the objects for which the appropriations were made." Appropriations for the Executive Office of the President were not made for the purpose of endorsing commercial products. By endorsing Ms. Trump's products while acting in her official capacity, Ms. Conway appears to have violated the statute.


    As the law makes clear, public officials should not use their offices for either their own private gain or the private gain of others. Government resources should be used for public purposes, not to promote any private party's products. Ms. Conway appears to have violated both the letter and the spirit of these rules when she used her position to endorse the accessories and clothing line of Ms. Trump, the daughter of the president. Furthermore, we are concerned about what appears to be a pattern developing of the use of official offices, particularly the White House and the Executive Office of the President, to benefit business interests of relatives and supporters of the president; Ms. Conway's comments appear to be just the latest example of this trend. We hope you will act not only to respond to this apparent violation, but to reverse this pattern. CREW therefore requests that you commence an investigation into Ms. Conway's conduct and take any necessary disciplinary action against her.