Ethics body urges probe into aide's sales pitch

Ms Conway (left) told Fox News viewers last week that Americans should buy Ivanka Trump brand fashionwear, which includes footwear (above) and clothes. Federal ethics rules prohibit executive branch employees from using their positions to endorse pro
Ms Conway (above) told Fox News viewers last week that Americans should buy Ivanka Trump brand fashionwear, which includes footwear and clothes. Federal ethics rules prohibit executive branch employees from using their positions to endorse products.PHOTO: NYTIMES
Ms Conway (left) told Fox News viewers last week that Americans should buy Ivanka Trump brand fashionwear, which includes footwear (above) and clothes. Federal ethics rules prohibit executive branch employees from using their positions to endorse pro
Ms Conway told Fox News viewers last week that Americans should buy Ivanka Trump brand fashionwear, which includes footwear (above) and clothes. Federal ethics rules prohibit executive branch employees from using their positions to endorse products.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WASHINGTON • The White House should consider disciplinary action against presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway for appearing to violate government ethics rules by publicly endorsing Ivanka Trump products, said the Office of Government Ethics.

In a letter addressed to a White House ethics official, it asked President Donald Trump's administration to investigate the incident, and gave it two weeks to provide its findings and detail any disciplinary steps taken.

Ms Conway, Mr Trump's presidential campaign manager and now a senior counsellor, said on Fox News last week that Americans should "go buy Ivanka's stuff". She spoke after retailer Nordstrom announced that it was dropping the branded line of Ms Trump, the President's older daughter.

Federal ethics rules prohibit executive branch employees from using their positions to endorse products. "There is strong reason to believe that Ms Conway has violated the Standards of Conduct and that disciplinary action is warranted," Office of Government Ethics director Walter Shaub wrote in the letter made public on Tuesday.

CALL FOR DISCIPLINARY ACTION

There is strong reason to believe that Ms Conway has violated the Standards of Conduct and that disciplinary action is warranted.

OFFICE OF GOVERNMENT ETHICS DIRECTOR WALTER SHAUB

Mr Stefan Passantino, the White House ethics official named in the letter, declined to comment. A White House spokesman did not reply to a request for comment.

The ethics office has little enforcement power. It can formally recommend disciplinary action if the White House does not act, Mr Shaub said in a separate letter to two US lawmakers who sought a review of Ms Conway's remarks.

That recommendation would not be binding, and the process would take until late April or early May, Mr Shaub said. If the ethics office does formally recommend disciplinary action, it would be up to the White House to decide on any steps against Ms Conway.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 16, 2017, with the headline 'Ethics body urges probe into aide's sales pitch'. Print Edition | Subscribe