Government Ethics Office Rebukes White House Over Handling of Kellyanne Conway Violation

kellyanne_conway_by_gage_skidmore_3I recently criticized 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 and I believe that she should have been punished with an official reprimand or some other equivalent measure.  However, I viewed the violation as part of a tongue-in-cheek retort to the controversy. The White House reached the same conclusion that there was no “nefarious” intent but it also declined to impose any formal punishment.  That decision has led to a relatively rare rebuke fromOffice of Governmental Ethics Director Walter Shaub.  Referring to Conway’s “free commercial,” Shaub expressed dismay over the failure to impose any punishment and further chastised deputy White House counsel Stefan Passantino for his explanation for the lack of any discipline.

In a letter sent to deputy White House counsel Stefan Passantino, Office of Governmental Ethics Director Walter Shaub objected to Passantino’s suggestion that the ethics rules do not apply to White House staff.  In fairness to Passantino, there is a good-faith debate over that legal issue.  However, it should not have mattered since Passantio stated that, while the White House disagreed that the rules technically applied, they would follow those rules.  He then however declined any discipline. (Ironically, Shaub objected to Passantino not supplying support for his proposition but Shaub does not supply much support for his opposing view).

Once again, I believe that a formal punishment was warranted even though I believe that people have blown the controversy out of proportion. In that regard, I agree with Shaub. The White House should be reaffirmed ethics principles with regard to its own staff at a time when it continues to assert that it is trying to “drain the swamp.” This is particularly the case when ranking congressional members formally asked the Ethics Office to look into the matter.

Notably, despite the controversy and calls for boycotting of the products,  Ivanka Trump’s line of products has experienced record sales.

143 thoughts on “Government Ethics Office Rebukes White House Over Handling of Kellyanne Conway Violation

  1. Although I find that many of Ms. Conway’s statements reflect a rather slovenly appreciation of the ethical standards that ought to inform the public discourse of lawyers, this incident was merely a snarky lapse of judgment and did not warrant any discipline. I suspect the strong language of the Shaun letter is a reaction to a growing perception that the White House regards ethical guidelines as just another example of political correctness that the new ubermenschen in control of the government may disdainfully ignore.

  2. It’s not unexpected when the administration’s critics are so energized that any incident becomes something worthy of punishment and then only the strongest of measure is to be levied.

    Know that when any human is put under such intense scrutiny, by people who are ready to pounce on anything outside of normal–normal that is in their minds–it is impossible for the person to not be nailed for something.

    Many of the democrats live in the most fragile of glass houses but they are protected every time they make glaring violations of the law. But of course, they are the first in line to smash anyone they disagree with for the smallest thing. But then again, what else can we expect from a political party that sabotaged a legitimate contender for the presidential nomination and instead promoted the most corrupt politician since Jimmy Walker or Boss Tweed.

    • The scale of Clinton corruption is what boggles the mind. I think Wm. Thompson, the Mayor of Chicago 90 years ago, might have been a crook on this scale, but precious few others.

      • It’s worth pointing out again that the FBI did not clear Hillary Clinton of any wrong doing in her handling of classified material and use of private server. The FBI found that she did violate National Security protocols and she did mishandle classified materials, but made the decision not to indict her because she did not “intend” to violate protocols. They did not find “intent” — only carelessness and ignorance.

    • Olly, it’s depressing how far they’ve gone to get votes.

      With the African American community struggling with the highest unemployment and underemployment rates we’ve seen in so long, you would think that the first African American President would prioritize business friendly policies to help the economy and the job market recover. But, no. He could count on their loyal vote, so he and his associates forgot all about them. Their vote was in the bag, so who cares about them? He turned to importing as many Democrat-voting immigrants as possible to compete with African Americans in a scarce job market. Out where I live, Latino-African American racism against each other is intense. You would think they would blame the party who basically invited wave after wave of that job competition, but they don’t. They’ve played right into the hands of the politicians. I don’t care which party they belong to, the Duopoly cares about their own jobs, their own wealth, and the special interests who give them job security. Most of us get squished in the end.

  3. I want the law and rules to apply equally to Democrat, Republican, Independent, and Political Agnostic.

    But they don’t. It’s intuitively obvious to the most casual observer that Democrats can get away with anything (such as Hillary selling 1/5 of our uranium to Russia in exchange for a half a million paid to Bill and a hefty check to the Foundation that also funnels money to cronies), while Republicans get threatened with Siberia for the most minor offenses.

    Enough. Make it fair, make it equitable, and please stop weaponizing our government, legal system, intelligence community, and IRS against conservatives.

    This is not some banana republic where Democrats get to persecute conservatives while being lawless themselves.

    Make it equal and fair for all.

  4. I honestly believed that she got some sort of reprimand for this already. To be sure, she knows not to do this again.

    If the law and rules applied equally to Democrats and Republicans, no one loses their job over this, or their license to practice law, or gets a scarlet letter. It was a minor infraction. You will recall that Obama openly, and rightly, met with and praised the Mo’s Bows founder. He and Michelle have praised musicians who have sung for them, designers who have sewn for them, and special interests who have gotten votes for them.

    Ivanka was the victim of political bullying, where activists went after the business of a woman who urges Trump to negotiate and be reasonable. She’s associated with Trump, so they wanted to hurt her. They could never ruin her, because she’s a rich woman in her own right. But they want to hurt each and every person associated with the Trump campaign, no matter how nice they are.

    Kellyanne Conway made a minor violation when she openly praised Ivanka’s clothing line. She did not stand to benefit from it herself, nor did Trump, but it did provide a boost to the daughter of the President. In fact, the political bullying itself caused supporters to rally to her line. Any note of the political bullying of her would create a boost. The only mistake Kellyanne made was in urging people to support Ivanka and buy her line of clothing and accessories. But in reality, no one goes to a gulag for that. As noted before, it’s actually quite common for Presidents and First Ladies to praise businesses they like, and they get clothes, votes, art, or whatever out of it. It would be wrong to amplify the punishment when Democratic predecessors had no punishment whatsoever.

    Kellyanne did not promote fraud, or lying, or double dealing. She was protective of the President’s daughter.

    I say she should have a minor reprimand, such as counseling about proscribed comments, a slap on the wrist, and then a nice bouquet of flowers for defending my fellow woman entrepreneur from political bullying. That’s fair and just.

    Now, my question is, what is the normal reprimand that would be expected for such a minor, newbie gaffe?

  5. “The White House reached the same conclusion that there was no “nefarious” intent but it also declined to impose any formal punishment.”

    So what’s the problem? There was no “intent” to violate ethics rules. Case closed. Isn’t that exactly how Hillary Clinton got away with clear violations of National Security protocol? The FBI said Hillary DID do wrong, BUT she didn’t INTEND to. The FBI said she was simply careless, so no indictment.

    The selective outrage must stop.

  6. What JT always does is to say nothing here to see folks move on……….unless its a democrat. Then unleash the dogs of war.

    • The great thing is you and everyone else have the opportunity to support or reject his articles and his opinions. If through that process the evidence leans heavily in favor of denouncing the policies, practices and procedures of Democrats, then it may be time to figure out why.

  7. What the frig is Couchgate? Are you folks talking about Kelly Ann kneeling on some couch in the Whitehouse? Jeso. Then this tongue n cheek remark about Ivanka’s products?
    Jeso.
    I pray that people get off this lady’s arse and get their focus on some real issues. Like Medical Monopoly Capitalism.

    • Jack, you’re not getting it. Couchgate and Tiegate are the most pressing issues of out time. These two issues must be critically examined as they are having adverse impacts not only the United States today, but perhaps even the world, having disastrous consequences that are sure to ripple through history adversely affecting our lives for centuries to come. Thank you.

  8. Honestly, Johnathan, politics makes me weary these days. So exciting, only to a point. I just have never seen anything like these modern days. I’ve grown accustomed to not posting much about it, but going to your blog to read about it.

  9. And, Professor Turley, could you please publish at least one article a day about Couchgate? This is without a doubt the most pressing problem facing not only the United States today, but perhaps even the world, having disastrous consequences that are sure to ripple through history adversely affecting our lives for centuries to come. Thank you.

  10. Yeah, sure, Kellyanne Conway’s so-called ethics violation (i.e., a plug for a Trump family member) is just sooooooooooooooo heinous! OMG! There should be a $20 million Congressional investigation of this vile, despicable, and sinister act!

    But as for the CIA’s repeated violations of the Constitution, as revealed in VAULT 7 documents, why they should be swept under the rug, as the CIA’s violations are always done to benefit America, right?

    As you may recall, thanks to the CIA, the Mafia, and other true patriots, they got rid of that rotten scoundrel John F. Kennedy so that the US could get involved in a decades-long multi-billion dollar war and helping to reduce excess populations in the US and Asia. So, of course, the CIA shouldn’t have its hands tied by such trivial things as the law, and should be free to do whatever they want to, unchecked.

    But let’s not talk about any of this. Let’s focus on what’s truly important: KELLYANNE CONWAY AND HER HEINOUS ETHICS VIOLATION AND HE DISRESPECTFUL AND ATROCIOUS CONDUCT ON WHITE HOUSE FURNITURE! INVESTIGATE NOW–NOW MATTER WHAT THE COST!

    • So what’s the big deal, anon? You had no problem with Clinton being on the Saudi payroll for many, many times the amount that Flynn received. And you had no problems with Obama doing his secret deals with the Saudis. And you certainly had no problem with CIA director John Brennan working for the Saudis, either?

      • Oh, I forgot, you’re a leftist, as are the Clintons, Obama, and Brennan, so, by definition, leftists can never be hypocritical. Never mind.

  11. Yeah, sure, Kellyanne Conway’s so-called ethics violation (i.e., a plug for a Trump family member) is just sooooooooooooooo heinous! OMG! There should be a $20 million Congressional investigation of this vile, despicable, and sinister act!

    But as for the CIA’s repeated violations of the Constitution, as revealed in VAULT 7 documents, why they should be swept under the rug, as the CIA’s violations are always done to benefit America, right?

    As you may recall, thanks to the CIA, the Mafia, and other true patriots, they got rid of that rotten scoundrel John F. Kennedy so that the US could get involved in a decades-long multi-billion dollar war and helping to reduce excess populations in the US and Asia. So, of course, the CIA shouldn’t have its hands tied by such trivial things as the law, and should be free to do whatever they want to, unchecked.

    But let’s not talk about any of this. Let’s focus on what’s truly important: KELLYANNE CONWAY AND HER HEINOUS ETHICS VIOLATION AND HE DISRESPECTFUL AND ATROCIOUS CONDUCT ON WHITE FURNITURE! INVESTIGATE NOW–NOW MATTER WHAT THE COST!

    • As you may recall, thanks to the CIA, the Mafia, and other true patriots, they got rid of that rotten scoundrel John F. Kennedy so that the US could get involved in a decades-long multi-billion dollar war

      John Kennedy was shot dead by Lee Harvey Oswald, a hopeless incompetent who was not employed by the CIA or the Cosa Nostra. As to his objects that day, your best wager is that it was a botched attempt to kill John Connolly, whom he’d blamed for his dishonorable discharge from the Marine Corps.

      • Yeah, of course, LH Oswald did the deed. The FBI and the CIA said so within one hour after the assassination, without any investigation whatsoever, and they ought to know. They have our best interests at heart and have always been dedicated to the truth. Just be sure not read or study any of the investigative analyses about the assassination, however, as it will shatter the narrative you’ve been trained to adopt without asking any questions.

        • It’s extremely doubtful that the CIA issued any statements on the matter ‘within one hour’ of the event and it’s a reasonable wager that the FBI did not either.

          Oswald was arrested by the local police in Dallas and it was the local police and the Secret Service who were primarily responsible for the investigation at that point in time. He was arrested for a simple reason: he’d murdered a Dallas police officer in front of a scrum of witnesses. He was also employed in the building from which the sniper’s bullets had originated, was just about the only employee therein who disappeared from work that afternoon, had shown up for work that morning carrying a package of ‘curtain rods’, and owned a carbine stored at his estranged wife’s residence which was, much to her surprise when the police came a calling, not on the premises.

          • Ah, ignorance is bliss, is it not, desperatelyseekingleftism? But facts are facts.

            The U.S. Government and its agencies almost instantly concluded that there was no conspiracy and Lee Harvey Oswald alone killed JFK. Theodore H. White, in his book “The Making of the President,” 1964, explained that on the afternoon of November 22, 1963, the Presidential party on Air Force One “…learned that there was no conspiracy, learned of the identity of Oswald and his arrest…” Air Force One had landed at Andrews Air Force Base, at 5:59 P.M. on November 22, 1963. Mr. White stated that this message was sent to the Presidential party from the Situation Room of the White House.

            This same message was confirmed by Pierre Salinger in his book “With Kennedy.” Mr. Salinger received that same message while on the Cabinet Plane which was flying over the Pacific Ocean. Although Mr. Salinger instructed the National Archives to provide the documentation confirming this message, the documents disappeared from the National Archives. Researchers have subsequently attempted to obtain a copy of the Air Force One Tapes, but James U. Cross, Armed Forces Aide to the President, wrote on January 2, 1968, that the logs and tapes of the radio transmissions “…are kept for official use only. These tapes are not releasable, nor are they obtainable from commercial sources.”

            Considering that the Government immediately concluded that there was no conspiracy and Oswald was a lone assassin, one should wonder how the tape should be a matter of such secrecy. But the contents of the message to Air Force One was confirmed in 1993 by Robert Manning, Kennedy’s Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs who was on the Presidential plane on its return trip from Love Field to Andrews Air Force Base. He reported having heard the same account of Oswald being designated as the presumed assassin and that no conspiracy was involved.

            But feel free to ignore the above facts. I don’t want you to experience any cognitive dissonance from the official government narrative that you’ve been programmed to accept like an automaton. Thanks.

              • The only thing that is to be derived from your comment is that your reading comprehension ability and your ability to understand what facts mean is ZERO. The Dallas Police did not charge Oswald with murder until 11:26 pm in Dallas on November 22, 1963. Yet, in an official government announcement on Air Force One, the conclusion was there was no conspiracy and that Oswald was entirely responsible for the assassination, even before an investigation was performed. But these facts are not for you. I realize that you hate facts as they don’t conform to the bogus beliefs that the Elite Establishment has easily programmed you with. These facts are strictly for other casual readers seeking the truth.

                • Yet, in an official government announcement on Air Force One, the conclusion was there was no conspiracy and that Oswald was entirely responsible for the assassination,

                  There was no ‘conclusion that there was no conspiracy’. Your gloss on Theodore White’s retrospective gloss is not a public statement from the U.S. Government. They appointed a blue ribbon commission to investigate just what had happened.

                  Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested at 10 minutes to 2:00 pm, and hour and 20 minutes after he shot the President. and 35 minutes after he shot J.D. Tippet. Lyndon Johnson was headed back to Washington at the time.

        • Just be sure not read or study any of the investigative analyses about the assassination, however, as it will shatter the narrative you’ve been trained to adopt without asking any questions.

          They’ve done nothing of the kind. Serious students of the assassination do not trade in fantasy. Those who do promote the idea of conspiracy (e.g. Josiah Thompson and Cyril Wecht) are laser-focused on forensic evidence and have no time for speculative or imaginative blather about the CIA, the Cosa Nostra, or anyone else.

          There’s a huge run of poorly sourced and fantastical books on this question. They exist to entertain people whose ‘minds’ are already made up, not to be serious presentations of evidence.

          • Wrong again. The recognized definitive study on the JFK assassination is “JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters,” by James W. Douglass. The evidence of conspiracy in the assassination involving the highest levels of government is overwhelming. Although so-called journalists and reporters in November articles through the years continue to state that Oswald murdered JFK and never refer to Oswald as the “alleged assassin,” their failure to even use that phrase is evidence in itself of a conspiracy, because those so-called reporters/journalists take their orders from the Elite Establishment, and their jobs depend upon lying about the assassination.

            • The recognized definitive study on the JFK assassination is “JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters,” by James W. Douglass. T

              That’s the ‘definitive study’ only in your addled head. Douglass had a copy of the Warren Report, some Congressional committee transcripts, news accounts, and secondary sources. He did no archival research worth bothering about, nor would you expect him to. He’s a writer on political topics tarted up as religious topics whose history of scholarly writing is limited to work published in comparative religion journals 50-odd years ago.

              John McAdams of Marquette, whose scholarly volumes include work on the Kennedy Assassination, offered this review of Douglass’ work:

              http://www.washingtondecoded.com/site/2009/12/unspeakably-awful.html

              (Btw, his precis of Douglass contentions make clear that Douglass is an idiot).

              • By mentioning John McAdams as a legitimate source, you might as well hand a big sign on your front and back saying, “I’m an ignorant dupe and dope. Please don’t kick me.”

                McAdams is a liar and a fraud and has been proven as such countless times.

                • McAdams is a serious academic historian and fearless in his dealings with Marquette’s corrupt administation. Such people are verrrry inconvenient to the conspiracy subculture.

                  The conspiracy subculture is devoting to taking something straightforward and folding, spindling, and mutilating it to make it complicated for fun (or, in the case of Mark Lane and Oliver Stone) for fun and profit. Oliver Stone and Jim Garrison peddled the thesis that the military-industrial complex took down the President by subcontracting the job to a mess of French Quarter homosexuals. James Douglass peddles the thesis that the CIA took down Pres. Kennedy (a perfectly mainstream careerist pol) because of some pacifist inclination undetectable to anyone but James Douglass. James Douglass and Jim Garrison fancy conspirators Jedi mind-tricked a dozen individuals (all perfectly ordinary and most of them unacquainted with each other) into cooperating in securing a job for Lee Harvey Oswald at the Texas School Book Depository.

                  I don’t know why you want to waste your life on this crud. You might have the courtesy not to impugn the character of people who see it for what it is.

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