Ethics office criticizes White House for not disciplining Conway

Senior presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway, seen here speaking during the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md., on February 23, will not be disciplined by the White House for saying on "Fox & Friends" that Ivanka Trump's clothing line is a "wonderful line" and that people should "go buy it today." Office of Government Ethics Director Walter M. Shaub Jr. has criticized that decision. Photo by Molly Riley/UPI

March 10 (UPI) — Office of Government Ethics Director Walter M. Shaub Jr. has criticized the White House for choosing not to reprimand senior presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway for promoting Ivanka Trump‘s fashion line on television.

Shaub’s criticism comes after the White House on Feb. 28 announced Conway would not be disciplined for telling Fox News viewers to “Go buy Ivanka’s stuff.”

Shaub on Thursday wrote to the White House’s deputy counsel to the president for compliance and ethics that he remains concerned about Conway’s “misuse of position.”

“When an employee’s conduct violates [federal rules], disciplinary action serves to deter future misconduct,” Shaub wrote. “Not taking disciplinary action against a senior official under such circumstances risks undermining the ethics program.”

Shaub also said he was more concerned about the White House ethics counsel’s recent assertion that “many regulations” that fall under the ethics office do not apply to presidential staffers.

“I am more concerned about the extraordinary assertion that ‘many’ of OGE’s regulations are inapplicable to employees of the executive office of the president. The assertion is incorrect,” Shaub wrote. “It is critical to the public’s faith in the integrity of government that White House employees be held to the same standard of ethical accountability as other executive branch employees.”

Conway made the comment about Ivanka Trump’s fashion line during a Feb. 9 appearance on “Fox and Friends.”

“It’s a wonderful line. I own some of it,” Conway then said. “I’m just going to give a free commercial here — go buy it today, everybody. You can find it online.”

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In making the decision not to discipline Conway, the White House’s ethics counselor said Conway “acted inadvertently and is highly unlikely to do so again.”

“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,” the White House counselor said.

The Office of Government Ethics does not have the authority to enforce penalties or investigate potential rule violations. The federal ethics offices can recommend disciplinary action but it is nonbinding. The office also does not have the power to appeal a decision if an employee’s federal office chooses not to take action over a potential violation.

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