Law Professors File Ethics Complaint Against Kellyanne Conway

A group of 15 ethics law professors from around the country has filed bar charges against  White House counselor Kellyanne Conway.  For full disclosure, Conway is one of my former students at  George Washington University Law School (she graduated in 1995).   The letter from 15 professors alleged ethical violations of government rules as well as  “conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.”  Most of the allegations in the letter are, in my view, without merit and seem overtly political.  The one issue that has already been raised in Congress and has a legal foundation is the alleged endorsement of Conway of the product line of Ivanka Trump.  That is a technical violation of federal rules, but the question is whether it was a venial rather than mortal sin.  The “violation” was the result of a side comment by Conway on television criticizing the decision of Nordstrom to drop the line.  The White House Counsel’s office let it be known that Conway had been “counseled” over the infraction.  However, ethics charges should not be a form of politics by other means and, with all due respect to these accomplished academics, this letter strikes me as raising largely political objections to Conway’s work as a spokesperson for the Administration.

 Some of the allegations are highly suspect as the basis for an ethics charge. Focusing on prior misleading or false statements, the professors accuse Conway of violating Rule 8.4(c) which states, “It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to [e]ngage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.”
For example, the professors  take  Conway to task for her false statement that there was a “Bowling Green Massacre.”  However, Conway soon thereafter apologized for misstatement.  The professors however suggest an intentional lie:
On several occasions, including in an interview on MSNBC in early February, 2017, Ms.Conway referred to the “Bowling Green Massacre” to justify President Donald Trump’s executive order banning immigrants from seven overwhelmingly Muslim countries. Not only was there no “massacre” in Bowling Green, Kentucky (or Bowling Green, New York, for that matter), but Ms. Conway knew there was no massacre. 

Although Ms.Conway claimed it was a slip of the tongue and apologized, her actual words belie her having misspoken: “I bet it’s brand-new information to people that President Obama had a six-month ban on the Iraqi refugee program after two Iraqis came here to this country,
were radicalized, and were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green Massacre. Most people don’t know that because it didn’t get covered.” See generally Clare Foran, The Bowling Green Massacre that Wasn’t, THE ATLANTIC, February 3, 2017, at Moreover, she cited the nonexistent massacre to media outlets on at least two other occasions. See Aaron Blake, The Fix: Kellyanne Conway’s ‘Bowling Green Massacre’ wasn’t a slip of the tongue. 

She has said it before.
WASH. POST, February 6, 2017, See Here 
The inclusion of such a controversy in my view wholly undermines the credibility of the ethics charge.  The professors are asking that the bar presume that Conway intentionally lied eve though such a lie would be immediately challenged and she later apologized.  Moreover, she was acting not as a lawyer but as a political spokesperson in such a capacity.
The letter also charges that Conway lied about the record under the Obama Administration.
Compounding this false statement, in that same MSNBC interview Ms. Conway also made a false statement that President Barack Obama had “banned” Iraqi refugees from coming into the United States for six months following the “Bowling Green Massacre.” Id. However, President Obama did not impose a formal six-month ban on Iraqi refugees.
He ordered enhanced screening procedures following what actually happened in Bowling Green—the arrest and prosecution of two Iraqis for attempting to send weapons and money to al-Qaeda in Iraq. 

The two men subsequently pled guilty to federal terrorism
charges and were sentenced to substantial prison terms. See Glenn Kessler, Fact Checker: Trump’s facile claim that his refugee policy is similar to Obama’s in 2011, WASH. POST, January 29, 2017, See Here.

This was not the first time Ms. Conway had engaged in conduct involving “dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.” On January 22, 2017, on the NBC television show Meet the Press, Ms. Conway said that the White House had put forth “alternative facts” to what the news media reported about the size of Mr. Trump’s inauguration crowd. She
made this assertion the day after Mr. Trump and White House press secretary Sean Spicer accused the news media of reporting falsehoods about the inauguration and Mr. Trump’s relationship with intelligence agencies. See Nicholas Fandos, White House Pushes ‘Alternative Facts.’ Here are the Real Ones. N.Y. TIMES, January 22, 2017, at As many prominent commentators have pointed out, the phrase “alternative facts” is especially dangerous when offered by the President’s counselor. Moreover, “alternative facts’ are not facts at all; they are lies. Charles M. Blow, A Lie by
Any Other Name, N.Y. TIMES, January 26, 2017.
Once again, this reads like a political retort.  Are these professors seriously arguing that a White House aide inartfully discussing “alternative facts” is an ethics violation or misstating the Obama action is a punishable violation for an attorney?  The point of the Obama reference is that the prior Administration based such special measures on the basis of nationality, which is the central controversy in the Immigration Act.

These allegations destroy the legitimacy of the complaint.  The professors do raise one viable issue of improper conduct, but not one that ai view as suited for bar resolution.  During a Fox interview, Conway reacted to Nordstrom’s recent decision to drop Ivanka product line.  She clearly viewed the decision as political and struck out with what I took as a fairly tongue in cheek comment: “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.”

That was a clear mistake and a violation of federal rules.  The law is clear about barring such an endorsement under 5 C.F.R. 2635.702 barring the use of public office for private gain:

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.

While Conway can claim that this was an effort at being cheeky or humorous, she expressly endorsed a product line and, in light of the ongoing controversy over conflicts of interest in the Trump Administration, it was remarkably ill-considered and reckless.  However, this is a matter for investigation in the Executive Branch.  I assume that there is some discretion in distinguishing between violations that are substantive efforts to endorse a product and a passing statement like Conway’s.  I would expect that such a comment would generate at least a formal reprimand and the Administration has already stated obliquely that Conway was “counseled.”
The question is whether the Bar is the proper forum for such transgressions but a staff member who is new to executive service.  There are a host of such problems that arise in new administrations but one can make logical distinctions.  Again, I fail to see the basis for a formal ethics charge based solely on the product endorsement and view the other references as bordering on frivolous as the foundation for an ethics complaint.
What do you think?


229 thoughts on “Law Professors File Ethics Complaint Against Kellyanne Conway”

  1. I’ve been waiting from your commentary

    I think this is sexist, harassment and trying to shut her up.

    The people who did are the ones who should be investigated

  2. She was a student of yours? You are willing to admit this? Jonathan, I just hope that some day you will understand what’s wrong here, the qualities that a legal education is supposed to impart and why you are no scholar of the law, why you are not qualified to pontificate about philosophy, patriotism or anything else altruistic or otherwise uplifting to the human spirit or beneficial to the common good How much does Fox pay you, anyway? Do you need money this badly? If we took up a collection for you, would it get you to stop using what you believe to be your superior knowledge and top rate legal education to further the agenda of the mental patient who is occupying the White House? I admit this last statement is ambiguous–there are so many candidates to whom this could apply, such as Preibus, Bannon and Trumple Thin Skin, but I meant the latter. Are you just for sale?

    Conway, in addition to being hideously homely and arrogant, is a pathological liar who brags about her law degree and having passed the bar exam 4 different times. When she’s called out about lying, she then pulls out the female and mommy card, and pivots to claim that it’s just the Democrats pissed off because they “lost” the election that their candidate prevailed in for the popular vote to the tune of about 3 million votes. You defend her lying and clear ethics breaches as mere “politics” or a venial sin in the overall scheme of things, so you are worse than she is. She not only promoted Ivanka’s products while on the public payroll, she described what she was doing as a “free commercial”. As the recipient of a “superior” legal education and bragging rights for having passed 4 different bar exams, she knows better, so this is not an error–just the product of her arrogance, plus the fact that she’s not been previously disciplined for her lying and lack of ethics. No ambiguity, no politics at work here–if she’s going to brag about her achievements as a law graduate of a “superior” law school, and having passed the bar exam in 4 different states, she’s going to be held accountable.

    1. Conway, in addition to being hideously homely and arrogant, is a pathological liar who brags about her law degree and having passed the bar exam 4 different times. When she’s called out about lying, she then pulls out the f

      Sorry your career didn’t work out.

    2. Natacha – are you a graduate of a top-tier law school? Does one’s beauty have anything to do with one’s ability to function as a lawyer? Are you jealous of her position or still upset that Trump was elected? Or both?

      1. Yes since you brought it up put it up or shut up . A foto will do?Is this really Maxine in drag?

    3. To whom and for what? I can tell you the answer for that. To the counter revolution that reinstated the Constitutional Republic of the United Sates of America and it’s strong base of representative democratic principles. Why? Because my My Mommy raised me to despise Commies, Socialists national or international, and other forms of human filth.

      What State are your from?

  3. Long overdue, a disrespect to the profession and womanhood.

    If she did not know the statements were false, then she has stability issues, which would render her unfit.

    Bill Clinton, lied about a presidential benefit in the likes of JFK and he gets his license yanked.

    Spare me the detail that she was a former student, very little have you complained about Trump.

    1. “Spare me the detail that she was a former student, very little have you complained about Trump.”

      That may very likely be because he limits himself to actual legal (re: constitutional/separation of powers) issues and leaves the policy whining to the myopic crowd peddling their own agenda.

      1. You think so? See what was said about Obama in 2008, “Accessory to War Crimes” ring a bell?

        You should be salivating now.

        1. Do you think there’s any comparison to G. Gordon Liddy?

          Will she be thrown under the bus when convenient ?

          Will she throw der Fuhrer under the bus when impeachment proceedings begin?

          Will she be wearing a blue dress!

          1. Der Fuhrer already got thrown under the bus i’m surprised to hear you speak like that obout Frau Hillary. but you of all people should know so who am I to argue with….how close are you to der Hexe hässlich

  4. I’m gonna take a wild guess, but could these 15 “ethics” law “professors” be anti-Trump, pro-Clinton, and pro-Elite-Establishment drones, driven strictly by politics? A bookie friend of mind says that if you could bet odds on it, they would be 800/1, meaning you’d have to risk $800 just to win $1.

  5. Full disclosure: I have known D.C. Disciplinary Counsel, Gene Shipp, for nearly 40 years, even before he went to work for what was then the D.C. Office of Bar Counsel. He was one of my early mentors as a young trial attorney. I owe him much. I have also represented attorneys charged with disciplinary matters by his office. I am friends with a number of attorneys who worked for that office, past and present. Full disclosure over.

    Although the Office of Disciplinary Counsel gets frequent criticism from disciplined attorneys, it generally does a good job of discerning legitimate complaints from complaints made for ulterior motives. There is, however, a problem with bar disciplinary systems: they have been used (more correctly, abused) merely to stir up trouble by terminated employees, opposing counsel etc. There are disgruntled former employees, often bar members themselves, who will use the disciplinary system to retaliate against their employers. Even if the complaint is found to be frivolous, the attorney must defend, including the expense of hiring counsel. Furthermore, the attorney will be required to list any pending investigations, however frivolous, in the event the attorney applies for membership in another bar or on employment applications.

    It has happened that attorneys will file ethics complaints against opposing counsel in order to gain tactical advantage in litigation or as a preventive matter in order to prevent their institutional clients from being sued by a particular attorney. It grates me no end when what I consider to be a mediocre attorney, incapable of prosecuting or defending his client’s cause on the merits, seeks a tactical advantage by filing a complaint against his or her opponent. The complaining attorney may even notify the court in which the case is pending that opposing counsel has a pending disciplinary matter. Normally, attorneys who file ethics complaints are smart enough to refrain from filing the complaints in their own names. Instead, they get non-bar members to file on their behalf thereby giving themselves plausible deniability.

    I would be interested to see if the 15 law professors who filed the complaint against Kellyanne Conway are members of the D.C. Bar – not to mention their political affiliation. If so, they should themselves be disciplined for wasting the Bar’s resources for their own personal gain. That would stop abuse of the disciplinary system.

    1. Excellent and thoughtful ‘insider’ reply which explains much. My infantry style short version is. ‘lie in the mud with pigs you get pig spit to take home for the wife’s laundry. (or husbands or whatevers)

      We’re much more direct in the combat arms. We let God sort them out.

  6. Worst that should happen?

    Change Counselor to Adviser, File a barrage of counter attacks against Podesta, Lynch, and others, incuding all their staffs that took the fifty that held similar degrees

    and keep on trucking.

    And when it comes time to cut funding. DO NOT cut the law schools of the Gang of Fifteen and say they were exempted and the case is under investigation adjudicatiion and cannot be commented on until settled. The other schools willl just have go without founding while this batch gets to skate.

  7. their ethical concern. Well. spelling is equal to the intended Gang of FIfteen.


    Since the Washington Post conveniently forgot a few parts of the Constitution in their article Here are the names and locations they left out of the 15 accusers from what I gather some sort of Kangaroo Kourt lest they continue to hide.

    As for my ethics they start and end with support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign AND DOMESTIC.

    I wanted to make sure none of these made it on a list for any federal judgeships or other appointments.

    1. You might want to ask them where was and where is there ethical concern when pointing out these other misdeeds. If not we shall be sure to point them out at every opportunity.

      The counter revolution against the regressive secular left continues courtesy of the finest training available – Smoke Bomb Hill Fort Bragg NC.

      The names and titles are on page five of that pdf.

      Welcome to the bright lights of full disclosure I think you just made the No Bench List

      Counter Ambush is a great tactic….

    2. The Washington Post just hired ‘SKIPPY’ John Posdesta as a contributing columnist.
      Enough said.

      1. Just listened to an interview with Goldberg somebody or another from CBS and the self serving comment was who wins when the two sides de-legitimize each other?

        The answerr… Envelope please….

        The Citizens of the Country.

        1. file:///C:/Users/Vegemite/Desktop/2346.htm is the entire charge and on page five are the fifteen names of the fifteen professors and their professional locations to make sure they are never considered for any of the 102 available nomination openings.

          By now the names should be well known they were published as early as 0800 Eastern time for all to see …WaPo did that.

          Going to play with the big boys better put on the asbestos suit.

          So what’s the worst of this?

          KA is too valuable so they change her title to Senior Adviser instead of Senior Counselor and like a good Patriotic supporter of Mom’s who work she keep going on.

          Meanwhile we’ve got more reason to keep firing broadsides at the Party who claimed to have ethics but only had Bill Hillary, Podesta, Lynch and a number of staff ‘attorneys’ still under investigation

          I love the smell of burning Hi Ho’s and Twinkies in the Morning

          Especially the programmed stupidities of the clonette collective.

  9. I think the professors can do what they like, however my guess is they all voted Democratic.

  10. While we’re at it let’s see all of the sitting US Senators’ current stock holdings.

  11. The former attorney general of the US met privately on her jet with the former POTUS while his wife was under FBI investigation. That sets the bar for abuse pretty high for me.
    Get back to me when they have something that is of real merit.

    1. Had Bill Clinton been an employee of the executive branch at that time, he should have been fired.

  12. I’m not crazy about Conway, but these professors are requesting the death penalty for parking violations.

    Her reaction to the Nordstrom issue seems like the reflexive response of many sensible people to attempted boycotts of any institution who maintains any kind of relationship with someone who disagrees with the boycotters. I asked my wife to buy something from L.L. Bean they day I heard about Grab Your Wallet’s attack.

    1. No they are asking for the paybacks to continue. We’ve got at least 117years of them due us haven’t finished up with Wilson, then there is FDR, Truman LBJ, Carter Clinton and Obama. That’s a lot of debt to the nation to pay. They sure they are up to it?

      Remember ‘against all enemies foreign and domestic.’ Teach that in your Gang of Fifteen classes?’ i wondere what a review of their names and curiculum vitae will show up?

      We will get their names won’t we? For sure? Eventually. Can run but can’t hide.

  13. I thought bar complaints were confidential until adjudicated. Perhaps these professors should check their own ethics.

  14. The ethics charges are nothing more than lawyers *erking off. There’s a lot of that going on. However, I don’t believer I have ever seen a more appropriate face for a hand puppet. Look down and to the right and you can see DDT’s hand up her back. Conway gives Palin a run for her money when it comes to dumbfounded.

    1. Right on your level in the pig pen. So that’s what the progamming for the day is going to be. Typical. I’m so glad we kicked shite out of your former parrty. Paybacks are a mother feather and more to come. Not a damn thing you can do about except wait for tomorrows programming. That must have been Lykoff or is Carville slipping in his dotage?

  15. So let me get this straight. Russia could pay Bill for a speech and donate $144 million to the Clinton Foundation while getting Hillary Clinton’s approval at State to obtain uranium from us, but Kellyann can’t praise Ivanka’s clothing???

    1. Yup that about sums it up.
      Open up a fresh bottle of Pepto bismo
      And take a swig, Before you watch this little 3 minute clip. I would like a review from the 15 ‘ethic’ professors, or at least demand a Grand Jury to convene.

Comments are closed.