One day after President Trump blasted Nordstrom department stores for dropping his daughter Ivanka's line of clothing and accessories (a sales-based move the company claims Ivanka knew about since last month) White House counselor Kellyanne Conway went on television to address the fashion flair-up—and may have broken a law by doing so.
Speaking with the hosts of Fox and Friends on Wednesday, Conway—standing in the White House Briefing Room—criticized the department store for its decision to axe the First Daughter's products. And then, in no uncertain terms, she told the viewing public to "buy Ivanka's stuff."
"I hate shopping," Conway said. "But I am going to go get some myself today."
"It’s a wonderful line, I own some of it," Conway continued. "I’m just gonna give a free commercial here, go buy it today, you can buy it online."
Forgetting for a moment the idea of shilling for any product on national television (there's a reason people mute commercials, folks), Conway—a public servant whose White House salary comes from taxpayer dollars—may have violated federal ethics laws.
5 CFR 2635.702, which deals with "use of public office for private gain," states (emphasis added):
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, including nonprofit organizations of which the employee is an officer or member, and persons with whom the employee has or seeks employment or business relations. The specific prohibitions set forth in paragraphs (a) through (d) of this section apply this general standard, but are not intended to be exclusive or to limit the application of this section.
Hmm, sound familiar?
I've reached out to the Office of Government Ethics for comment, and will update this story if and when they reply.
On Thursday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer addressed Conway's comments briefly, saying simply she had been "counseled on that subject."
— ABC News (@ABC) February 9, 2017
By late Thursday afternoon, Congressmen Jason Chaffetz and Elijah Cummings, the top Republican and Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, issued a joint letter to the Office of Government Ethics, claiming Conway's statement appeared to "violate federal ethics regulations."