White House: Kellyanne Conway Acted “Without Nefarious Motive”

I recently discussed the ethics complaint filed against Presidential Advisor Kellyanne Conway by 15 ethics law professors. For full disclosure, Conway is one of my former students at George Washington University Law School (she graduated in 1995). I criticized the complaint as highly political with little foundation. The only aspect of the complaint that was not frivolous was the allegation that Conway violated the federal rule against endorsing commercial products in light of her comments about Ivanka’s line of clothing and jewelry. As I stated, Conway did violate the rule though I viewed the violation as part of a tongue-in-cheek retort to the controversy. It still warranted a formal reprimand in my view but not an ethics charge or more serious action. The White House appears to have reached essentially the same conclusion though there is no indication of a formal reprimand as opposed to a public confirmation that Conway has been “counseled” and will not commit such a violation again.


Conway was not appearing as a lawyer but still allowed her rhetoric to overwhelm her judgment in saying on Fox and Friends “It’s a wonderful line. I own some of it. I fully — I’m going to just, I’m going to give a free commercial here: Go buy it today, everybody. You can find it online.” Given the ongoing controversy over conflicts in the Trump Administration, it was a particularly ill-considered response. Indeed, the handling of a product line of a Trump family member should have been a subject that a presidential adviser declined to address entirely.

The White House counsel’s office issued a letter to the Office of Government Ethics that it has determined that Conway acted “without nefarious motive” when she called on people to buy Ivanka products. Stefan C. Passantino, a White House deputy counsel for compliance and ethics states “[u]pon completion of our inquiry, we concluded that Ms. Conway acted inadvertently and is highly unlikely to do so again. It is noted that Ms. Conway made the statement in question in a light, off-hand manner while attempting to stand up for a person she believed had been unfairly treated and did so without nefarious motive or intent to benefit personally.”

Of course, that still leaves a violation under the clear rules set out 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.

There should be a reprimand for such an overt, on-air endorsement of a product line. It is important to maintain a bright-line rule under the ethics standards. However, as I have previously noted, this was more of a venial than mortal sin and any legal standard must have some ability to distinguish between the two. Accordingly, I obviously agree with the view of the White House ethics office on the lack of nefarious intent but it should demonstrate greater fealty to the rule with a formal reprimand. Moreover, Conway should issue her own letter apologizing for the slip and confirming that she is now fully versed on the ethics of executive service. Indeed, the most effective response should have been a letter from the President warning all staff that they are not to address or comment on the business interests or product of the Trump family.

84 thoughts on “White House: Kellyanne Conway Acted “Without Nefarious Motive””

  1. I have to say Inspector 57 must be doing the job from across the pond they are still the best made.

  2. Much Ado about Nuthin. I am going to go buy the product based on her comment. Make America Great! Buy American!

    My Hanes underwear were made in Vietnam. Go give that a topic on the blog.

  3. Actually, I would have given Kelly Anne a reprimand for putting her feet on the couch, not the quip about Ivanka’s product line. I suppose my parents were old school, but had I ever put my shoes on the couch, I would have been relegated to sitting on a wooden crate for a year!

  4. Everything is political without factual substance.
    The Liberal wing of the Democratic party is drowned
    in its ignorance as was very visible last night’s Presidential
    Speech to Congress.
    Our Navy Seals who fought and died in the line of duty to defend
    Our great Nation.
    Total disrespect.
    Really.

  5. The alternative to Trump would have been a lady who cashed in on the fact her husband was President BJ, and is a principal in a slush fund that accepts foreign donations with the promise of rewarding those donors with favors later. Although admittedly Hillary has clearly already delivered on some of those promises to those who paid to play.

    The Clintons don’t even have so much as a hotel, an honest business.

  6. “POTUS, her boss, is a multi-billionaire with global hotel properties that are getting rich from foreign diplomats staying there! Will he ever get a “formal reprimand”?”

    Well, that’s a lie. Trump is donating any money that foreign diplomats who stay in his hotels to the Treasury. Of course now the charge is he’s benefiting from the good publicity for doing so. He’s damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t. It seems only like crooked pols like Diane Feinstein, who’s funneled billions to her husband Richard Blum, or Nancy Pelosi, who actually do get rich by abusing their office. As Chicago Mayor Richard Daley frankly admitted. Now the libs are making up all kinds of crap about a guy who was already rich when he got into office.

    “Who ever heard of a president who refused to submit tax returns? ”

    Anyone who was born before 1970.

  7. Whether Kelly never does it again – due to her “formal reprimand – is besides the point. POTUS, her boss, is a multi-billionaire with global hotel properties that are getting rich from foreign diplomats staying there! Will he ever get a “formal reprimand”?

    I think that more politicians are going to openly challenge the vague and slippery standards that are used to define “conflicts of interests”. Trump’s popularity is partly based on challenging the establishment, and the sacred but ill-defined rules of ethical conflicts are as establishment as you can get. Who ever heard of a president who refused to submit tax returns? Before the election, the pundits and the media said he was DOA for that. Well, it didn’t happen. Instead, we’re being forced to examine who has the authority to issue “formal reprimands” anyway. As well as whether they have any effect.

  8. It still warranted a formal reprimand in my view but not an ethics charge or more serious action.

    Of course, that still leaves a violation under the clear rules set out under 5 C.F.R. 2635.702 barring the use of public office for private gain:

    I take it you’re trying to persuade people that law professors and compliance mavens are ass-clowns. You’re doing a satisfactory job.

  9. Kelly sure must be rattling someone’s cage for all the attention which is given for every little thing she does or doesn’t do. I hope she stands fast and lets it all go or apologize where necessary, but stay and fight against this stupid nit picking. My god Bill Clinton desecrated the office of the President in horrible ‘teen age’ ways; and he hardly got a slap on the wrist. His wife was a ‘do nothing’ make up ‘stories’ Department of State employee and risked who knows how many lives and they put her on a pedestal. Kelly Ann folds her legs on a couch to take a photograph and the news media goes nuts! Its ludicrous. We have issues in this country which are really serious and something this dumb gets spotlighted. Very sad!

    1. Totally sad. We should still be talking about the fastest resignation of a national security advisor in history. Sad!

  10. Oh, I get it – you can tell me my doctor is bad, but I’m not allowed to reply that my doctor isn’t. – because that would be unethical

  11. The alternative truth queen feels she is protected under the auspices of the president . Perhaps she is ,I remember seeing her on a news program in which she had nothing good to say about Trump. Now she is all glory to the president and she said he will do what he wants to do and we better get use to it.What a great thing to say to the American people. This woman has no dignity and I can’t respect her as a person or a woman. She stands for nothing and will change in favor of who ever is throwing the most money at her. In my opinion that is what is wrong with our system. Money is the new deity and truth and dignity are not a part of the equation.

    1. Amen! Why do you think all these Democrats are pro-cheap labor? (aka illegal immigrants) Money and votes. Votes mean power to make more money! A bunch of devils, the whole lot of them!

      Squeeky Fromm
      Girl Reporter

  12. “Conway should issue her own letter apologizing for the slip and confirming that she is now fully versed on the ethics of executive service.”

    Next time I’m pulled over for speeding or parking illegally, I’ll be sure to write a letter and confirm that I’m now fully versed on traffic law, rather than face penalties. That’ll work, right.

    And shouldn’t she be versed on those ethics before taking an official position? Maybe I’m just wondering alternatively.

    1. “And shouldn’t she be versed on those ethics before taking an official position?”

      Shouldn’t the Ninth Circuit Court be versed in the constitution before taking that official position? Just wondering alternatively.

      1. Come on Squeeky, this story is about Conway’s ethics, not those on this blog. That’s just not fair! 😉

          1. Hillary employed a private server to control her image after office, which ironically made her image even worse. She mishandled classified information and left her communications susceptible to hacking. No question.

            With that said, versus the Steak-Salesman, I would have voted for warm excrement in a shoe. (At least Republicans had 17 choices. Not so on other side.)

            1. Actually, to frustrate the FOIA requests to which she was required by law to comply. And without a doubt, to conceal the incestuous relationship between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department during her tenure.

            2. True that. The Repubs actually had a fair fight and the Donald won. Whereas right from the get-go the Dem primary was a total charade. It was HRC or bust. And that’s what they got.

      2. Not ‘should have been’ but ‘should be’ The investigations I think …..five of them are still in progress.

    2. To make this apples to apples in your analogy, a conservative should be sent to prison for 40 years without the possibility of parole for going 45 in a 40 mph zone, while a Liberal should be issued a ticket.

  13. All it warranted was a reprimand, which she received. The law should apply equally, and should not be weaponized against conservatives. No one loses their law license or gets an ethics violation for a comment like that.

    I hope the White House defends Ms Conway to the death. Because if they roll over, this weapon will be used again and again. They’ve been bragging on social media about putting out these kinds of hits on everyone in the Trump Administration to try to bring down the government.

    We are supposed to strive to have the law apply equally to everyone, rich and poor, religious and atheist, famous and forgotten, and conservative and Liberal. And no Liberal would be up on an ethics violation and receive a bar complaint for such a comment. Was President Obama impeached when he met with adorable Moziah “Mo” Bridges, founder of Mo’s Bows, and promoted his line? No, he did not, even though he benefitted by appealing to voters of the African American community. Nor should he have been punished.

    And, I’m sorry, but if Hillary Clinton didn’t go to jail for exchanging donations to the Obama foundation and payments to Bill for speeches in exchange for jobs at State, uranium to Russia, beneficial handling of cases before State, making the most expansive weapons deal to Saudi Arabia, etc, then what the heck is Ms Conway doing in hot water over praising Ivanka Trump’s clothing? The law does NOT apply equally, which has never been on clearer display.

    Aren’t we sick of these anarchists yet?

    Speaking of which, I am so very curious to discover who’s been calling in hoax bomb threats at Jewish schools across the nation, terrifying parents and children. They are all hoaxes. One would think if they were terrorists or anti-Semites, they would, God forbid, have done damage. But they were all hoaxes designed to disrupt. I may be calling this wrong, and will be the first to admit it if it proves to be the case, but I suspect this is yet another attempt at anarchy to disrupt the Trump Administration. And a dangerous one as copycats may actually do harm. If you thought you were fighting against fascism, how far would you go? Would you file a bar and ethics complaint when Kellyanne Conway praised a clothing line, an action that would normally earn a mild rebuke? Would you call in hoax bomb threats? Maybe I’m just hopelessly jaded at this point with what I’ve seen.

    1. Anarchists are the extremists of the right who are described as Citizens Over Government and further as preferring zero government as opposed by the left who are Government Over Citizens and favor totalitarian autocracies. The lefts two three main extremist groups are National Socialism, International Socialism and secular progressivism (who are anything but progressive) perhaps a few tree spiking greens.

  14. If the weather cooperates Trump could give her a Rose Garden ceremony marking the occasion of her desertion in a combat zone and the subsequent release from the enemy by a ransom payment. Oh wait, sorry, I believe I’ve mixed up two very outrageous news events.

    1. Yes, but would he grow a Taliban worthy beard for the occasion, without which the whole effect is ruined?

  15. Reading the comments, it is obvious that the “Progressives” are really just haters.

    Most Pinkos are scared, indignant, angry, and outraged – all those emotions come through in their comments.

    Guys, recognize that you come across as deranged.

    1. Well said, it’s been a constant barrage of attacks from the night they lost the election. I don’t even think they know why they lost and why more people are rejecting them as they continue along the current path they’re on. They are filled with hate.

      1. It never ceases to amaze me that the mob that got in entirely on hate and lies and continues with hate and lies, accuses the left of hating. Hate, frustration, comes with losing. The more important question here is why, after winning, does this gang continue to lie, hate, accuse, misrepresent, whine, etc. Don’t look behind the curtain.

    2. So all those running scared Republican members of Congress are all pinkos? Well, they do seem to love Russia so……

      1. @JH-Come on guy, the “Russia” thing again? Your better then that, no one has provided proof that President Trump has engaged with the Russians to corrupt the election. Did the Russians give Wikileaks’s the information on Hillary and Podesta, I’ll agree with you there no doubt but who’s fault is that?
        I’ll ask again as I did a couple times before, is there anyone here who voted for President Trump vote for him because of the Russians tell us how and why?

        1. Not the point.,,,,Was the campaign compromised? It appears that Manafort and Flynn were. This needs a full investigation.

      2. Anything you say Comrade. Seig Me No Heils we don’t serve the party.

    3. It is an all-consuming, deranged hatred. It will eat them up before too long. That’s a hell of a way to live.

      1. Actually it’s only your single opinion FFA and it as we know that didn’t do the Libertarians much good.

    4. Painting with such a broad brush using labels such as “progressives,” (or pinkos, liberals or conservatives) comes across as even more deranged.

      1. After we went to the trouble to use the specific names employed by and referred by the regressives? How could you ever think that?

  16. Well, that’s it then. The WH says everything is OK. Now I feel great. She did it to encourage people to buy those products. That’s it.

    1. She’s a woman for God’s sake.

      Man wants little and and is sl”easy” to please, but women bless their hearts wants everything she sees.

  17. Jonathan, why are you defending this despicable woman? I think your friendship with her has clouded your analysis here.

    1. “Jonathan, why are you defending this despicable woman?”

      I don’t know, maybe because he’s not a partisan hack. He’s able to be objective and apply principles above politics.

      1. Jonathan is the very embodiment of a partisan hack–here we have one partisan hack defending another partisan hack. The former partisan hack trained the latter partisan hack, who loves to brag about having passed the bar examination in 4 different states. She is a chronic liar. She holds herself out as a highly skilled lawyer. She should be disbarred just on GP.

        1. Disbarring, lying and boastful attorneys would be a great step in draining the swamp. Speaking of chronic liars, has Hillary Clinton been disbarred yet?

      2. I don’t expect the professor to join the pack of hounds at any time soon. This nation sorely needs more Professor Turley’s to demonstrate what American’s are supposed to innately understand; or failing that high goal, just the adjective “objective”.

    2. She sure felt comfortable with her bare feet up on the Oval Office couch yesterday. Meanwhile, the First Lady came down from her home in NY for the event.

      1. Maybe if she was giving the President a BJ you liberals would have bee more comfortable with it.

    3. Peter, Johnathan calls it as the law sees it. No favoritism, just common sense–which is oftentimes lacking with the liberal left IMHO.

    4. Jonathan, why are you defending this despicable woman? I

      Because the complaints against her are contrived twee pettifogging nonsense, perhaps?

    5. Friendship? What friendship? She was one of his students, more than 20 years ago, in a class of probably 75 – 100 students!

    6. Despicable comes from despise which is listed as a synonym of hate. Words have meanings and you just outed your self as a hate speaker. By the way dows this ethics outfit have any legal standing along with their ethics manual? I somehow for some reason don’t find them, the American Bar Association and the American Civil Liberties Union in the Constitution.

      Maybe we ought to be investigating some of these. For example. the suspension of Civil Rights has elicited zero comment much less action on the part of ACLU.They have had 16 years to get off the pot and change the roll

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